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Ed Webb

Two Weeks in January: America's secret engagement with Khomeini - BBC News - 0 views

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    The secret engagement between the US and Khomeini in the days before the victory of the Iranian revolution
Ed Webb

How Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen has made al Qaeda stronger and richer - 0 views

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    Mohamed bin Salman's war is an utter disaster.
Ed Webb

New Texts Out Now: Joel Beinin, Workers and Thieves: Labor Movements and Popular Uprisi... - 0 views

  • situate the movements in Egypt and Tunisia in the framework of the imposition of neoliberal economic reform and structural adjustment programs (ERSAPs) on Tunisia, from the mid-1980s, and Egypt, from 1991. The labor movements were the most salient expression of the deteriorating conditions of life under the regime of neoliberal globalization, or “flexible accumulation,” as the regulation school of political economy terms it
  • The recent murder and torture of the Italian PhD student Giulio Regeni, who was researching the independent trade union movement in Egypt, suggests that it will be quite a while before anyone takes up this subject again.
  • class and political economy were far more salient elements of the 2011 uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt (and I might have added Bahrain and Morocco) than most Western (and even local) accounts were willing to acknowledge
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  • the successful installation of a (highly problematic, to be sure) procedural democracy in Tunisia, in contrast to the establishment of an authoritarian praetorian regime far more vicious than that of Mubarak in Egypt, made it necessary to argue that class and political economy alone do not determine outcomes
  • The character and political role of the Tunisian and Egyptian armies is also a factor
  • the economic and social discontent expressed by the desperate demise of Bouazizi and Yahyaoui has only intensified
  • In 2010 the national unemployment rate was under thirteen percent. By 2015 the figure rose to 15.3 percent. Unemployment rates in the center-west and southern regions of the country (including Kasserine and Sidi Bouzid) are typically nearly double the national average. In 2015 the OECD estimated national youth unemployment (ages fifteen to twenty-four) at nearly forty percent.
  • The government understands the problem, but has no solution. On 20 January the cabinet announced that 5,000 unemployed in Kasserine would be hired for new public sector jobs. Another 1,400 were to be hired through an existing employment program. However, on 22 January, Finance Minister Slim Chaker revoked the promise of 5,000 new jobs in Kasserine, claiming that the previous announcement was due to a “communication error.”
  • There will be another revolution if the social and economic circumstances do not change,” said President Béji Caïd Essebsi on the fifth anniversary of Tarek Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation. Nidaa Tounes, a big-tent coalition of secularists ranging from former communists to former Ben Ali supporters has split. Over two dozen of its deputies have left, and it is no longer the largest party in the parliament. The terrorist attacks have reduced tourism to a catastrophically low level. The economy is not expected to grow at all in 2016. None of its traditional elite political forces—secular or Islamist—imagine an economic program substantially different than the one Tunisia has pursued since the mid-1980s.

  • On 19 January, faced with a UGTT threat to call a general strike, the employers’ association (UTICA) agreed to increase wages for about 1.5 million private sector workers. But for the unemployed, the streets are their only recourse.
Ed Webb

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

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