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Contents contributed and discussions participated by Ed Webb

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UAE to open second military base in east Africa | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • The United Arab Emirates is going to set up a second military base in the Horn of Africa, sparking concern among some governments in the region.

    The Somaliland parliament approved the deal for the northern port of Berbera on Sunday

  • Under the 30-year deal, the Emirati government will have exclusive rights to Somaliland’s largest port and manage and oversee operational activities.
  • DP World, the UAE’s ports operator company, will supervise the port, which will gain a naval base as well as an air base. The lease of the port is contingent on the $442 million deal with DP World.
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  • Somaliland will get investment as well as international recognition: no other country has yet recognised the breakaway territory – which separated itself from the rest of Somalia in 1993 - as an "independent state"
  • The Eritrean base has been used by the UAE in the Yemen war against the Houthis. It is not known whether the facility at Berbera will have a similar purpose
  • Abu Dhabi is reaching out to countries in and around the Horn of Africa, as it looks to increase its non-oil revenue through other avenues including real estate, trade and financial services.
  • the UAE will be engaging in trade across the port, and for this, it would require a sustainable road network across Berbera. Hence, as the minister said, it will create opportunities for the local people on infrastructure development.
  • the Somaliland deal has angered Ethiopia, one of the regional powers in the Horn of Africa, which itself has economic ties with the UAE.

    As recently as last year, the UAE and Ethiopia signed several investment deals, under the terms of which the UAE is legally bound to protect the economic interests of Ethiopia

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Jordan's worst nightmare could be yet to come if US embassy moves to Jerusalem | Middle... - 0 views

  • Trump’s repeated vows to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has disproportionately upset the Jordanian government which, at the moment, has no shortage of crises.
  • Key to understanding Jordan’s anxiety is the Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty - sometimes called the Wadi Araba Treaty because of where it was signed – signed in October 1994 which stated that Israel would respect the special role that Jordan had historically played in Jerusalem’s holy places and, further, would give priority to the kingdom’s role during final status negotiations.
  • Israel also agreed at the time to refrain from changing – either geographically or demographically - the status of the holy city before reaching at a final agreement to which Jordan was a party.
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  • When Jordan annexed the West Bank in April 1950, Jerusalem became an integral part of the country whose constitution prohibits relinquishing or ceding any part of its territories.

    And even after Israel’s occupation of Jerusalem in 1967, Jordan maintained the right to oversee the city’s holy Islamic and Christian places. To this very day, the Jordanian Ministry of Awqaf (Endowments) continues to provide custodianship and services at Al-Aqsa Mosque and other religious places in Jerusalem.

  • Jerusalem’s legal and political status constitutes an important strategic file as far as the Jordanian regime is concerned. If the US changes the city’s status, from a Jordanian perspective, that would mean that the very mediator and guarantor of the Wadi Araba agreement is taking unilateral measures to change the status of a disputed territory over which negotiations have not yet been finalised
  • Jordan is the most anxious party in the region as a result of Trump’s pledges with regard to move the US embassy, a measure which would imply US acknowledgment that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel
  • recognition like this of Jerusalem as the Israel capital would breach the 1994 peace agreement, destroy all peace efforts and fatally end the final status negotiations in which the city is one of the most prominent and most crucial issues
  • the Al-Aqsa intifada in 2000 erupted and raged on for several years because of the holy city. The uprising saw the collapse of the Oslo agreement with the termination of the geographical designation of the West Bank territories into A, B and C as well as the unilateral decision to withdraw Israeli troops from the Gaza Strip without negotiations
  • Jordan is keen to avoid more chaos in the region, but especially because a large proportion of Jordanian citizens have Palestinian roots and are linked, through family and tribal ties, to Palestinians living in the West Bank
  • moving the embassy would breach the Jordanian-Israeli agreement that was signed thanks to US mediation and sponsorship. It would render final status negotiations into absurdity because the most important issue – Jerusalem - would have been settled as a fait accompli by the Israelis and the Americans
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In many countries, Millennials more inclusive than elders in views of national identity... - 0 views

  • Across a number of countries that are wrestling with the politics of national identity, younger people are far more likely than their elders to take an inclusive view of what it takes for people to be truly considered “one of us” – whether the measure is being born in their country, sharing local customs and traditions or being Christian.
  • The divide between the young and the old over birthright nationality is quite wide in certain European countries: 21 percentage points in the United Kingdom and 16 points each in Greece and Spain
  • Views on the importance of culture to national identity also split along generational lines. A majority (55%) of older Americans but only 28% of younger adults believe it is very important that a person share U.S. national customs and traditions to be truly American. There is a similar 20-point generation gap in Australia, Canada and Japan.
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  • In these predominantly Christian countries, older people are generally much more likely than younger ones to link national identity to being Christian.
  • only in Greece (65% of those ages 50 and older) does a majority of any age group believe it is very important for one to be Christian to be a true national
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    Important data for thinking comparatively about the relationship between certain aspects of identity and perceptions about national belonging.
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Could hydroponics save Yemen from starving? | Green Prophet - 0 views

  • The number of food insecure people in Yemen has risen by 3 million in seven months, with an estimated 17.1 million people now struggling to feed themselves
  • More than two-thirds of Yemen’s population of 27.4 million people now lack access to food and consume an inadequate diet. Another Syria-style crisis may be on our way, and climate change and lack of water is making it worse.
  • “We are witnessing some of the highest numbers of malnutrition amongst children in Yemen in recent times. Children who are severely and acutely malnourished are 11 times more at risk of death as compared to their healthy peers, if not treated on time. Even if they survive, these children risk not fulfilling their developmental potentials, posing a serious threat to an entire generation in Yemen and keeping the country mired in the vicious cycle of poverty and under development,”
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  • 80 percent of Yemenis are in now in debt, and more than half of all households have had to buy food on credit.
  • Up to 1.5 million households engaged in agriculture now lack access to critical agricultural inputs (including seeds, fertiliser, fuel for irrigation) and are in urgent need of emergency agricultural support. Of these, 860 000 households engaged in livestock production lack access to animal feed (fodder, concentrate, mineral blocks) and many livestock-dependent households have been forced to sell their herds to cater for other household needs
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Persepolis: Iran tourism gateway faces climate threats | | Al Jazeera - 0 views

  • While political tensions between the West and Tehran continue, one of the industries that has benefited most from the thawing of relations is tourism, with the country reporting 18 percent growth in international arrivals last year. Visitors from North America, Europe and the Middle East represented more than a quarter of the total number of arrivals from January to December 2016
  • agricultural activities have caused the soil around Persepolis to collapse owing to the depletion of groundwater and drought. Growth of algae and bacteria in the ruins have also threatened the many archaeological objects at the site, which was carved on the side of the Rahmet Mountain.

    But with the reopening of the country, experts from Japan and Italy are lending their hands to preserve the site for the many visitors expected in the years to come.

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From SEALs to All-Out War: Why Rushing Into Yemen Is a Dangerous Idea | Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • As is often the case with Trump’s comments on policy, they quickly become the focus of media attention, rather than what the administration is actually doing — or what the facts are on the ground.
  • two separate but overlapping conflicts
  • a counterterrorism fight waged by Yemeni government, with U.S. support, against AQAP, al Qaeda’s most virulent franchise
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  • The second, and more damaging conflict, is a civil war between the government of Yemen and the Houthi minority, which was expected to last a matter of weeks, and maybe months, but is now well into its third year. It began when Houthi militia fighters descended on the capital Sanaa in late 2014 and soon evicted the government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a close partner of the United States.
  • if new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wants to make an early diplomatic contribution, then there is a confounding but vital mission with his name on it: de-escalating a Yemen civil war that is damaging U.S. interests and should have stopped a long time ago
  • The civil war escalated dramatically in March 2015, with the intervention of a coalition led by Saudi Arabia, which understandably felt threatened by the turmoil on its border and by ties between the Houthis and Riyadh’s arch-rival Iran. The United States, which had long been urging Saudi Arabia to take greater responsibility for security challenges in its region, offered a range of support, including with intelligence, weapons sales, aerial refueling for Saudi planes, and various measures to help secure the Saudi border
  • According to the United Nations, 16,200 people have been killed in Yemen since the intervention, including 10,000 civilians. The humanitarian situation in what was already one of the world’s poorest countries, is now, after Syria, the most dire on the planet, with one in five Yemenis severely food insecure
  • The war has preoccupied key partners with an enemy that does not directly threaten the United States. Indiscriminate air strikes, conducted with American weapons and in the context of American assistance, have killed scores of non-combatants (such incidents eventually compelled the Obama administration to review and adjust our assistance to the coalition). And while Iran and the Houthis have historically maintained an arms-length relationship, the long conflict has brought them closer and led to the introduction of more advanced weapons, such as missiles capable of striking deep into Saudi territory or of threatening the Bab al-Mandeb Strait, a critical channel for maritime traffic.
  • Saudi officials and their Emirati coalition partners have been signaling for months that they are eager to end the conflict, which they did not expect to last nearly this long
  • after years of U.N.-led negotiations that sought to sell a relatively one-sided peace to the Houthis (despite what was, at best, a stalemate on the ground), the Obama administration developed and bequeathed to its successors a more balanced roadmap to which all key parties (the Saudis, the Houthis, and the Yemeni government — as well as the United States, U.N., and U.K.) grudgingly agreed
  • the Houthis are infamously difficult to work with. When Secretary of State John Kerry met for several hours with their representatives in Oman last November, he was forced to endure a lengthy airing of historical grievances before embarking on the topic at hand. They also have a long history of violating dozens of agreements, which every Saudi diplomat can recount, chapter and verse.

    Negotiating peace will also inevitably involve straining relationships with our key partners, who will need to be pushed in the right direction

  • Hadi, who all relevant players acknowledge cannot govern a reconciled Yemeni state, has consistently scuttled deals that would require him leave office. His Saudi patrons have proven either unwilling, or unable, to compel better behavior and are themselves too are quick to revert to unreasonable demands — a tendency that would be reinforced if the Trump administration signals it unconditionally has Riyadh’s back
  • the Emiratis, who maintain a heavy troop presence in southern Yemen but have, wisely, been more focused on AQAP (the first war) than the Houthis (second), have for many months been threatening to attack the Houthi-held port of Hudeidah, a provocative step that would almost certain set back any peacemaking efforts indefinitely
  • an expanded presence of U.S. forces — while Yemeni and Saudi governments are still at war with the Houthis — could bring U.S. troops into close quarters with Iran and its proxies, with all of the escalatory potential that entails
  • While the Houthis fired on a U.S. ship late last year, they have not repeated that mistake since the Obama administration retaliated by destroying radars located along the coast. If President Trump chooses to put U.S. forces into the middle of a civil war, it should explain a purpose and objective more concretely than simply “pushing back” on Iran. Moreover, it must do so with its eyes open to the risks those forces would be assuming and the reality that a limited special forces mission is unlikely to turn the tide on the ground
  • the longer the conflict with the Houthis continues, the more AQAP will continue to benefit from our, and our partners’, divided focus, as it strengthens its hold on ungoverned territory
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How quarrel over tobacco sent Libya into darkness - 1 views

  • In the past, Libya generated surplus electricity, which it exported to Tunisia and Egypt. Today, it has a power generation deficit of about 75% of its domestic needs, according to some officials. It also has no central government to protect the provision of power it does generate
  • On Dec. 17, a group of young men from Zawiya were taken hostage by Warshefana militias because a cargo of shisha — smoking tobacco — belonging to a Warshefana trader was confiscated. To pressure the government and local authorities into helping free the men, another local militia from Zawiya shut down the pipeline supplying gas to almost every power station in western and southern Libya. Members of the Zawiya militia later appeared in a video explaining what had happened. This episode is not unusual in lawless Libya, where local authority does not exist and what central government there is cannot enforce law and order. In November, an incident involving the antics of a pet monkey and a girl's headscarf sparked one of the worst rounds of violence in Sabha, in southern Libya, leaving some 20 people dead and scores injured.
  • It took the mediation of numerous officials and local tribal leaders to secure the release of the hostages, ensure the return of the tobacco shipment and restore electricity generation to its previous capacity, thus reinstating the “regular” blackout hours prior to the incident — between five and nine hours a day.
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  • Every Libyan city, big and small, is by now accustomed to blackouts during certain hours almost every day of the week. The situation in recent months, however, has become unbearable, with the blackouts becoming longer and less predictable, making it difficult for hospitals and individuals with special needs to cope and carry out their daily routines. Some people have bought generators for personal use during blackouts, but the majority of people cannot afford them and access to cash through the banking system is severely restricted due to the banks' chronic liquidity problems.
  • Power cuts coupled with economic difficulties are exacerbating the fragility of the UN-backed Government of National Accord, which has little authority over the country, including Tripoli, where it is seated. It has been little more than a year since the Libyan Political Agreement was signed in Morocco on December 15, 2015, and nearly a year since the government it established installed itself in Tripoli. Little, however, has changed for the better in terms of daily life. In fact, the security situation and economic situation, including rising prices and lack of access to cash, are getting worse.
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'A night of evil': US attack in Yemen leaves scars, fear and hatred | Middle East Eye - 1 views

  • in the aftermath of the operation, which some US officials admit went disastrously wrong, many others lay dead: Up to 25 civilians, including an eight-year-old girl thought to have been a US citizen, and one US commando.
  • Rimi said afterwards that 14 members of his group had died in the attack - apparently confirming the village's link to AQAP - but villagers deny any association, and say what happened on Sunday was simply a massacre
  • US sources say intelligence showed the village was defended by prepared emplacements and machinegun nests, and ringed by minefields - one of the many factors in a decision by the former US president, Barack Obama, to leave the operation on the shelf. 

    What is certain is Yakla has been used by fighting men at a time of civil war - many tribesmen are members of the Popular Resistance, a loose coalition of groups fighting against the Houthi rebel movement which took over large areas of the country and kicked out the country's president, Abd Rabbuh Hadi, in 2015

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  • "After the drones, we heard helicopters overhead – that was when the tribesmen decided to take up arms and went out to face the forces."

    According to the villager, tribesmen grabbed "personal' firearms" which in Yemen, one of the world's most weaponised countries, include machine guns and assault rifles, to confront the US forces.

  • Thahab had recently worked with pro-government forces in Marib province - a source said he had been supplied with weapons to liberate his home province from the Houthis. 

    "Thahab was a main ally of the pro-government forces in al-Bayda and it is not in the interest of the government for him to be killed -  as he is one of the bravest fighters in al-Bayda," the source said.

    For the people of Yakla, talk of who was and wasn't on the American hit list were secondary to what they believe were the true objectives: making Trump look strong.

    One villager said: "The new US president thinks himself to be the strongest in this world, but I say our prayers to Allah are stronger than him, and Allah will help the weak people like us."

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UK government 'ignored advice and continued Saudi arms sales' | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • The British government ignored the advice of its own arms control experts and refused to suspend the exports of arms to Saudi Arabia, a London court heard on Tuesday.

    The revelation came in evidence during a landmark judicial review at the High Court.

    The review, brought by Campaign Against The Arms Trade (CAAT), is set to determine the legality of the UK government’s arms transfers to Saudi Arabia amid the current armed conflict in Yemen.

  • Despite human rights fears over Saudi Arabia’s ongoing bombing campaign in Yemen, Britain has exported £3.3bn of weapons to the kingdom since 2015.
  • UN experts said last week that 10 air strikes by the Saudi coalition which killed at least 292 civilians may have been war crimes. The Saudis denied the claims. The panel said the Houthis were probably also guilty of war crimes.
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Israel faces world anger over illegal settlement law | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • Israel faced international criticism Tuesday over a new law allowing the appropriation of private Palestinian land for Jewish settler outposts, although the United States remained notably silent.

    Britain, France, the United Nations and Israel's neighbour Jordan were among those coming out against the legislation passed late Monday.

  • Pro-Palestinian Israeli NGOs said they would ask the Supreme Court to strike down the law, while Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog warned the legislation could result in Israeli officials facing the International Criminal Court.

  • Separately to the new law, Israel has approved more than 6,000 settler homes since Trump took office on January 20 having signalled a softer stance on the issue than Obama.
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  • The law could still be challenged, with Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman saying last week it was likely to be struck down by the Supreme Court.

    International law considers all settlements illegal, but Israel distinguishes between those it sanctions and those it does not, which are known as outposts.

  • To some Israelis, the law reflects their God-given right over the territory, regardless of the courts, the Palestinians and the international community.

    "All of the Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people," said Science Minister Ofir Akunis of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, using the biblical term that includes the West Bank.

    "This right is eternal and indisputable."

    Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi called for the international community to assume its "moral, human and legal responsibilities and put an end to Israel's lawlessness."

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Tunis Greets an Ottoman-Era History Long Banished by Its Dictators - NYTimes.com - 1 views

  • Dictatorships have a way of manipulating historical narratives. So alongside any of the most pressing issues of the day, the past, too, is in play.

    The struggle to shape the past, and give it new authenticity, can be witnessed all around the Tunisian capital.

    Last summer, the Tunisian government restored a statue of Habib Bourguiba, the founder and first president of the republic, to its original place on the capital’s main avenue.

  • Mr. Bourguiba’s statue had replaced a humiliating symbol of colonialism: an image of the colonialist politician Jules Ferry with a Tunisian woman at his feet proffering an olive branch, he reminded Tunisians.

    “That used to be the symbol of colonialism, and Bourguiba is the symbol of freedom, of independence and of the modern state,” he said at the unveiling.

  • “Usually history is written by the victors, but this is the opposite,” said Adel Maizi, the president for preservation of memory at the commission. “These testimonies will reveal the truth.”
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  • “Dictatorship always tries to keep things secret,” he explained. “These kinds of testimonies are against forgetting. They will preserve memory for the country and serve as a way to guard such things happening in the future.”
  • Ridha Moumni, a curator of the exhibit, insists it is not political, but a matter of history. Yet he is displaying events that Tunisia’s dictators sought to suppress.

    “We have a very rich heritage that no one knew about,” Mr. Moumni said. “Our goal was to show that Tunisian modernity did not start with independence or colonization.”

  • it provides a history lesson on the significant reforms of the era — the founding of the army, the drafting of a constitution and development of diplomatic relations — that helped forge a nation
  • Among the original documents on display, one abolished slavery in 1846 — before the United States did so
  • a constitution drafted in 1860 that recognizes the rights of all citizens, including Christian and Jewish minorities, and census registers, in Hebrew and Arabic, belonging to Tunisia’s ancient Jewish community
  • Another discovery is the diversity of Tunisia’s leaders — from the Christian foreign minister, Giuseppe Raffo, to a Circassian general, Kheireddine Pasha, and the former slave Mustapha Khaznadar, who married into the royal family and rose to become the bey himself.
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UK admits training Bahrain police in 'public order' tactics | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • The British government has admitted it funded training that taught Bahraini police how to "command and control" demonstrators, after its denials were exposed by a human rights group.

    Rights organisations warn that the UK’s support for the Bahraini police force, which is frequently accused of abuses and using excessive force to quell peaceful pro-democracy protests, risks "helping arrest and execute people who are guilty of nothing more than calling for reform."

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