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Ed Webb

A glimpse inside Saudi Arabia in photos - 0 views

  • photos in the gallery below illustrate Saudi Arabia’s rapid urbanization, rising national identity, and some of the changes underway in society and politics as King Salman’s Vision 2030 gets underway
Ed Webb

Doha sues 'QatarExposed' for spreading false info | Qatar News | Al Jazeera - 0 views

  • Qatar's government communication office has filed a lawsuit in the United States against people who launched a social media campaign to spread false lies about the Gulf state to harm its interests.

    In its complaint before a court in the state of New York, the office said its defendants used social media accounts since October 2017 to spread fake information about Qatar and that it harbours "terrorism".

  • the adverts accusing Qatar of funding "terrorism" and mistreating foreign workers were paid for by "secretive campaign groups" - Qatar Exposed and Kick Qatar Out, neither of which own websites on the Internet.

    The two Twitter accounts were created within minutes of each other last October.

    According to analysts, the two campaigns are funded by groups linked to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – which, along with Bahrain and Egypt, have severed diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar.

Ed Webb

Haley: Vote With U.S. at U.N. or We'll Cut Your Aid - Foreign Policy - 1 views

  • Bolton recalled that former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker said that Yemen’s 1990 vote against the authorization of force against the then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein would be the most expensive vote they ever cast. “And we did cut their foreign aid,” Bolton said. “And there needs to be more of that.”
    • Ed Webb
      Yeah, that worked out really well.
  • “The goodwill that the U.S. has in the world has largely been the result of the perception of international good citizenship,”
Ed Webb

The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer: Countering Extremism: Jihadist Ideology Reig... - 0 views

  • By James M. Dorsey

    Edited remarks at India Foundation conference, Changing Contours of Global Terror, Gurugram, Haryana, 14-16 March 2018
  • Al Qaeda produced the counterterrorism industry in the context of a response that was focussed on law enforcement, security and military engagement. To be sure, that has produced significant results. It has enhanced security across the globe, stopped plots before they could be executed, driven Al Qaeda into caves, and deprived the Islamic State of its territorial base.

    All of that, however has not solved the problem, nor has it fundamentally reduced the attraction of religiously-cloaked extremism.
  • the call for a counter-narrative has produced an industry of its own. Like the terrorism industry, it has vested interests of its own: its sustainability is dependent on the continued existence of perceived real threats.
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  • The notion that one can eradicate political violence is illusionary. Political violence has been a fixture of human history since day one and is likely to remain a fact of life. Its ebbs and flows often co-relate to economic, social and political up and down turns. In other words, counterterrorism and counternarratives will only be effective if they are embedded in far broader policies that tackle root causes.

    And that is where the shoe pinches. To develop policies that tackle root causes, that are inclusive and aim to ensure that at least the vast majority, if not everyone, has a stake in society, the economy and the political system involves painful decisions, revising often long-standing policies and tackling vested interests. Few politicians and bureaucrats are inclined to do so.
  • militants have benefitted from the fact that the world was entering a cyclical period in which populations lose confidence in political systems and leaderships. The single largest success of Osama bin Laden and subsequent militants is the fact that they were able to disrupt efforts to forge inclusive, multicultural societies, nowhere more so than first in Europe, then the United States with the rise of Donald Trump, and exploit ripple effects in Asia
  • what makes this cycle of lack of confidence more worrisome and goes directly to the question of the ideological challenge is how it differs from the late 1960s, the last time that we witnessed a breakdown in confidence and leadership on a global scale.

    The difference between then and now is that then there were all kinds of worldviews on offer: anti-authoritarianism, anarchism, socialism, communism, concepts of extra-parliamentary opposition, and in the Middle East and North Africa, Arab nationalism and Arab socialism. Today, the only thing on offer are militant interpretations of Islam and jihadism
  • With democracy on the defense, free market enterprise having failed significant segments of the public, and newly found legitimacy for prejudice, bias and bigotry, democratic governments are incapable of credibly projecting a dream, one that is backed up by policies that hold out realistic hope of producing results
  • Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman appeared to be holding out a dream for his kingdom. But that dream increasingly is being shattered both in Yemen and at home. Autocrats in the Middle East and North Africa are about upgrading and modernizing their regimes to ensure their survival, not about real sustainable change
  • populists and nationalists advocating racial, ethnic and religious purity and protectionist economic policies are unlikely to fare any better
  • Creating a policy framework that is conducive to an environment in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia that would favour pluralism and respect of human rights and counter the appeal of jihadism and emerging sectarian-based nationalism is not simply a question of encouraging and supporting voices in the region, first and foremost those of youth, or of revisiting assumptions of Western foreign policies and definitions of national security. 

    It involves fostering inclusive national identities that can accommodate ethnic, sectarian and tribal sub-identities as legitimate and fully accepted sub-identities in Middle Eastern, North African, and South Asian, as well as in Western countries. It involves changing domestic policies towards minorities, refugees and migrants
  • Instead of reducing the threat of political violence, the largely military effort to defeat Al Qaeda produced ever more virulent forms of jihadism as embodied by the Islamic State. It may be hard to imagine anything more brutal than the group, but it is a fair assumption that defeating the Islamic State without tackling root causes could lead to something that is even more violent and more vicious.
  • an approach that focuses on the immediate nature of the threat and ways to neutralize it rather than on what sparked it
  • Norway’s response to right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik’s traumatic attacks in 2011 that killed 77 people stands as a model for how societies can and should uphold concepts of pluralism and human rights. Norway refrained from declaring war on terror, treated Breivik as a common criminal, and refused to compromise on its democratic values. In doing so, Norway offered a successful example of refusing to stigmatise any one group in society by adopting inclusiveness rather than profiling and upholding the very values that autocrats and jihadists challenge
Ed Webb

The Israel-Hezbollah Channel - 0 views

  • Israel and Lebanon have a long history of tension: officially, they have been at war without interruption since 1948, and they have not agreed on an officially demarcated border—nor, after several wars, have they formally agreed to a cease-fire. Nevertheless, a strange forum for conflict management has grown up between them. Since 2006, when UNIFIL was reauthorized by UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1701, peacekeepers have presided over more than one hundred tripartite meetings, which bring together officers from Israel, Lebanon, and UNIFIL to manage disputes and technical issues along the Blue Line.5 The primary belligerents along the border are Hezbollah and the Israeli military, but the Lebanese military serves as Hezbollah’s interlocutors in what has become known as the Tripartite Process.
  • In a region rife with standing conflicts between belligerents who have little or no direct channels of communication, UNIFIL provides a rare example of conflict management in an extremely unstable and opaque environment. Its track record offers some suggestions of promising approaches to manage and mitigate conflict, while avoiding unwanted escalation. But it also offers stark warnings of the limitations of a narrow and indirect approach in the absence of enduring cease-fires, treaties, or other more robust conflict-resolution mechanisms
  • UNIFIL makes a precarious model for conflict management. Despite its successes, both Israel and Hezbollah routinely attack UNIFIL’s legitimacy in public. The population of southern Lebanon expresses widespread skepticism about the peacekeeping mission’s intentions and loyalties, despite the benefits they reap from UNIFIL, which not only reduces conflict but serves as the area’s largest employer.11 Many residents of southern Lebanon and supporters of Hezbollah believe that UNIFIL serves Israeli and American interests and is unlikely to act to protect civilians during future conflicts
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  • its newly muscular force with strong international political backing created perhaps the only sustained, regular, and efficacious channel of communications between Middle East belligerents in an active conflict
Ed Webb

What It's Like to Live in a Surveillance State - The New York Times - 0 views

  • when it comes to indigenous Uighurs in the vast western region of Xinjiang, the Chinese Communist Party (C.C.P.) has updated its old totalitarian methods with cutting-edge technology
  • The Qing Empire conquered Xinjiang in the 18th century. The territory then slipped from Beijing’s control, until the Communists reoccupied it with Soviet help in 1949. Today, several Central Asian peoples, including Uighurs, Kazakhs and Kyrghyz, make up about half of the region’s population; the remainder are Han and Hui, who arrived from eastern China starting in the mid-20th century
  • the C.C.P. has since subjected the entire Uighur population of some 11 million to arbitrary arrest, draconian surveillance or systemic discrimination. Uighurs are culturally Muslim, and the government often cites the threat of foreign Islamist ideology to justify its security policies
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  • Uighurs’ DNA is collected during state-run medical checkups. Local authorities now install a GPS tracking system in all vehicles. Government spy apps must be loaded on mobile phones. All communication software is banned except WeChat, which grants the police access to users’ calls, texts and other shared content. When Uighurs buy a kitchen knife, their ID data is etched on the blade as a QR code
  • There’s an old Chinese joke about Uighurs being the Silk Road’s consummate entrepreneurs: When the first Chinese astronaut steps off his spaceship onto the moon, he will find a Uighur already there selling lamb kebabs. And so even as Mr. Chen cracks down in Xinjiang, the Chinese government touts the region as the gateway for its much-vaunted “one belt, one road” initiative, Mr. Xi’s signature foreign policy project. The grand idea combines a plan to spend billions of dollars in development loans and transport investment across Eurasia with a strategic bid to establish China’s diplomatic primacy in Asia.
  • The C.C.P., once quite liberal in its approach to diversity, seems to be redefining Chinese identity in the image of the majority Han — its version, perhaps, of the nativism that appears to be sweeping other parts of the world. With ethnic difference itself now defined as a threat to the Chinese state, local leaders like Mr. Chen feel empowered to target Uighurs and their culture wholesale
  • A law now bans face coverings — but also “abnormal” beards. A Uighur village party chief was demoted for not smoking, on grounds that this failing displayed an insufficient “commitment to secularization.” Officials in the city of Kashgar, in southwest Xinjiang, recently jailed several prominent Uighur businessmen for not praying enough at a funeral — a sign of “extremism,” they claimed.
  • How does the party think that directives banning fasting during Ramadan in Xinjiang, requiring Uighur shops to sell alcohol and prohibiting Muslim parents from giving their children Islamic names will go over with governments and peoples from Pakistan to Turkey? The Chinese government may be calculating that money can buy these states’ quiet acceptance. But the thousands of Uighur refugees in Turkey and Syriaalready complicate China’s diplomacy.
Ed Webb

Spoiler alert: Saudi television network bans Turkish soap operas | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • A Saudi-owned television network has announced it will pull hugely popular Turkish dramas from its schedules, in what experts inside Turkey say is an attempt by Saudi Arabia's crown prince to pacify clerics already outraged by his push to modernise the kingdom.
  • the Arab world’s largest private broadcaster, MBC, was ordered to stop broadcasting often racy Turkish television shows. The MBC Group is Dubai-based and controlled by Saudi investors
  • growing tensions between Turkey and the Saudi Arabia-United Arab Emirates axis in the row over Qatar's support for, among other things, the Muslim Brotherhood
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  • there has been pressure for a long time now to block Turkish programmes that often take up prime time slots from both Lebanese and Egyptian producers and filmmakers
  • Before the recent - and most likely politically motivated if not sponsored - spate of Turkish Ottoman history-based dramas, Turkish television programming was still a major hit in the Arab world
  • To many Middle Eastern viewers, drawn-out Turkish soap operas combining love affairs, drama and mystery more than just being quality television productions represented hope that it was possible to harmoniously merge east and west without sacrificing local identity
  • depiction of a lifestyle choice that is not an option in the Gulf
  • “Producers and TV/film firms have their costs covered before they commence filming via the deals they make with domestic broadcasters,” he said.

    “Other than that Turkish television has never been more popular. It has a market in eastern Europe, Africa and even Latin America.”

  • “There are so many dimensions to this ban. Another one is that Bin Salman has also launched a big drive on restoring historical places in the kingdom. But with their own Saudi interpretation," Hayek said.

    "And then you have these Turkish historical-based programmes being beamed into peoples’ homes who are very keen to learn about their past and heritage. They can’t be happy about that”.

Ed Webb

'The Insult,' Lebanon's first Oscar-nominated film, examines a country's deepest wounds... - 0 views

  • The film follows Yasser, a Palestinian construction worker who becomes embroiled in conflict with Toni, a right-wing Lebanese Christian, over a leaking water pipe. When Yasser confronts Toni about his grievances, Toni hurls back an insult that strikes sharply at the heart of the Palestinian struggle. The film examines the many forms our personal truths can take, how they collide, and the consequences of words in a polarized world.
  • It could happen like that in Lebanon. You could have a very silly incident that could develop into a national case.
  • we were fought because some people thought that we’re opening old wounds, and then all the people felt that, you know, we were defaming the Palestinians. Other people said we were attacking the Christians. Anytime you make a movie that is a bit sensitive — this one is a little bit more than a bit sensitive — people go up in arms. You know, they look at the film and then they immediately start projecting themselves and projecting their prejudices against it
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  • The subject came out of something I lived through, growing up in a war. Something that my co-screenwriter Joelle also lived through. It’s not like we read a book or based it on a TV interview on CNN. It’s something that we lived through, all the dynamics that you saw in the film, we are very familiar with it. You know, the Palestinian point of view, the Christian point of view. These are things that are so familiar to us. You know it’s this thing that we grew up eating and drinking and living. We were stopped at checkpoints, we hid under the bombs, we lived in shelters in Beirut in the 70s and the 80s and the 90s
  • We could have been such a lighthouse in the midst of all these other places around because we’re so interesting. Lebanon so interesting. But it’s sad that it does not fully use its potential. You know Christians, Muslims, Shiites, Sunni, liberal, it has all the potential of making a very, very interesting place
  • I had a lot of prejudice towards the Christians growing up. Like incredible. My parents were very left wing pro-Palestinian. And anybody from the Christian camp, from East Beirut, was considered a traitor, the enemy. And then you meet people from East Beirut, Christians, who were part of the Christian camp, and then you sit down and they work on your movie and and then you go have a drink and then you suddenly say, “Their story’s like mine, they suffered as much as [me].”
  • “The Insult” is about reexamining the other side. The woman who co-wrote the film with me who became my wife — we wrote four films together — she comes from the Christian camp. I come from [Muslim] West Beirut. She wrote all the scenes of the Palestinian. And I wrote the scenes of the Christians. We swapped.
  • every screening we do in the states, in Los Angeles in Telluride, in Toronto people were like so emotional about it. And then they said, “We totally identified because of what’s going on in the States today. We are living in America at a period where it feels like this entire society is tearing apart a bit.” And they look at the film and suddenly it’s speaking to them, even though that was not the intention.
  • Sometimes the country needs to go through a tear in order to heal better.
Ed Webb

State Dept. Was Granted $120 Million to Fight Russian Meddling. It Has Spent $0. - The ... - 0 views

  • James K. Glassman, the under secretary for public diplomacy during the George W. Bush administration, said the center’s uncertain funding and temporary leadership reflected the administration’s lack of interest in countering either jihadist or Russian propaganda.

    “They’ve got the vehicle to do this work in the center,” Mr. Glassman said. “What they don’t have is a secretary of state or a president who’s interested in doing this work.”

Ed Webb

Jared Kushner's Real-Estate Firm Sought Money Directly From Qatar Government Weeks Befo... - 0 views

  • The real estate firm tied to the family of presidential son-in-law and top White House adviser Jared Kushner made a direct pitch to Qatar’s minister of finance in April 2017 in an attempt to secure investment in a critically distressed asset in the company’s portfolio
  • The failure to broker the deal would be followed only a month later by a Middle Eastern diplomatic row in which Jared Kushner provided critical support to Qatar’s neighbors. Led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, a group of Middle Eastern countries, with Kushner’s backing, led a diplomatic assault that culminated in a blockade of Qatar. Kushner, according to reports at the time, subsequently undermined efforts by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to bring an end to the standoff.
  • The Gulf crisis involving Qatar and its neighbors will likely be Kushner’s defining foreign policy legacy. The crisis followed a May visit to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, by Kushner and President Donald Trump, who subsequently took credit for Saudi Arabia and its allies’ efforts against Qatar. The fallout has reshaped geopolitical alliances in the region, splitting the Gulf Cooperation Council and pushing Qatar, home to the Middle East’s largest U.S. military base, closer to Turkey and Iran. 
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  • This was not the first time Charles Kushner solicited funds from the Qataris, but it is the first direct pitch known to be made to the minister of finance himself. Notably, the play came after Trump’s election.
  • The news of Kushner Companies’ direct pitch to the Qatari government puts a Wednesday report from the Washington Post into broader context. U.S. intelligence services, the paper reported, had determined that officials in four countries — the United Arab Emirates, China, Israel, and Mexico — had been privately discussing how to use Jared Kushner’s real-estate investments as a way to gain leverage over him in order to influence official U.S. policy.
Ed Webb

Pushed out by Israel, asylum seekers find only limbo in Uganda | +972 Magazine - 0 views

  • Our small delegation is made up of members of Knesset Mossi Raz and Michal Rozin of Meretz, two of their spokespeople, refugee rights attorney Asaf Weitzen, and myself.

    • Ed Webb
      Meretz is a secular left party in Israel, further left than Labor.
  • Our plan is to trace the path of the asylum seekers whom Israel plans to deport — and those it has already pushed out — and try to learn any information we can about the secret agreements reportedly reached between Israel and both Rwanda and Uganda. The Rwandan and Ugandan governments deny that any such deals even exist
  • During our time in Kampala, I spoke with eight refugees who were forced out of Israel. Their stories are nearly identical: when they arrived at the airport in Uganda they were greeted by an unidentified official who confiscated the travel documents they received in Israel and then sent them to a hotel for two or three days. There, they were instructed to fill out asylum applications, but explicitly told not to write that they came from Israel. After several days, they were instructed to call someone to pick them up from the hotel, or to find another way out themselves. Without any documents, from then on, they were on their own — foreigners in a strange country, without any legal status or safety net.

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  • Tesfay says he left Eritrea at a young age to escape forced military service. Eritreans can be conscripted for decades at a time, which is often indistinguishable from slave labor. After five years in Israel, he was imprisoned in Holot for a year. That’s when he decided to leave. Since arriving in Uganda he has struggled to survive without any legal status or support. His savings, as well as the money he received as a departure grant from Israel, didn’t last him very long. Today he lives on the street. He says he has been robbed five times since he arrived. As a foreigner, he is easy prey.

  • Uganda, a country of 40 million people, actually takes in a large number of refugees — around 1.4 million of them. The thousands of “Israeli” refugees, however, cannot go to refugee camps. They are undocumented, and their chances of finding even the most menial kind of work are almost nonexistent.
  • “Either the agreement involves transfer through the country, without the possibility of residency, or the government is so embarrassed by the existence of this agreement with Israel that it has not set up any system for absorbing the refugees and will not give them legal status.”
  • “I understood that Israel is simply committing crimes. According to all of the testimonies from people who were deported, as well as from international aid organizations and local groups, people arrive in Rwanda and are basically smuggled into the country from the airport. They don’t even pass border control in an orderly way. They have no means of appealing to a court. They cannot request status or anything like it. Then they are smuggled again. They are stuck in these two countries without any status.”
  • “They told me ‘welcome,’ and gave me a month-long visa,” Dawit recalls. He says he moved to Petah Tikva and spent most of his time working for a local grocer. Dawit was on good terms with his boss and made friends with a number of Israelis, many of whom he still keeps in touch with by telephone, he says, smiling, but with a sense of loss. “I lived with Israelis and [Israel] is like my second country. They love me and I love them. I was successful at my job. I loved life.”

    “After four-and-a-half years [in Israel],” Dawit continues, “I was told that I had to go to Holot or to a third country. I did an interview at Holot, but then decided not to go. I continued to work.” Dawit’s boss kept him on for three more years but the deportations, the new laws targeting asylum seekers, and pressure from the government all took their toll. A few months ago, Dawit’s boss told him he couldn’t work there anymore.

  • The detained refugees seem moved by the fact that two Israeli parliamentarians traveled to see with their own eyes what awaits them there.

  • “Why should Uganda take in the people Israel doesn’t want?” asks Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda, a Ugandan member of parliament
  • “Uganda will not become a dumping ground that whoever thinks they cannot host people — that you throw them in another country.”
  • Rwanda is not a final destination for the refugees Israel is sending there. There is a well-oiled machine that pushes them out of the country as soon as possible. Of the several thousand asylum seekers that Israel has already deported to Rwanda, we are told that only eight remain there. The rest crossed the border into neighboring Uganda
Ed Webb

Russia's Rosatom says ready to build 16 Saudi nuclear power stations - Energy,GCC,Europ... - 0 views

  • Russia's Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Cooperation has announced that it is ready to build 16 nuclear power units in Saudi Arabia in a $100 billion deal.

    Yury Ushakov, aide to the President of the Russian Federation  outlined the company's plans for the Gulf kingdom to journalists at a briefing, a statement said.

    The announcement comes a year after Russia and Saudi Arabia signed an agreement to work together on “peaceful” nuclear energy projects.

  • Rosatom brings together over 360 nuclear companies and research and development institutions that operate in the civilian and defence sectors and the world's only nuclear icebreaker fleet
Ed Webb

US breaks ground for new permanent base in Israel - 0 views

  • U.S. and Israeli officers broke ground in Israel on Monday for a permanent U.S. Army base that will house dozens of U.S. soldiers, operating under the American flag, and charged with the mission of defending against rocket and missile attack.
  • the new U.S. base marks the first to be co-located within an Israeli base and the first in which active interceptors are to be deployed, the U.S. military has operated an independent facility for nearly a decade in the same general area of Israel’s Negev desert. That facility — which is operated only by Americans without an Israeli presence — houses the U.S. AN/TPY-2, an X-Band radar that is integrated with Israeli search and track radars to augment early warning in the event of ballistic missile attack from Iran.
Ed Webb

It's about time we all admit that Putin has prevailed in Syria | openDemocracy - 0 views

  • In Syria, Russia strode in where the west was hesitant, and just over two years on from the riskiest move in post-Soviet Russian foreign policy, the end game is clear. Assad, Russia and Iran will emerge victorious, and that is a direct result of Moscow’s decision to intervene in 2015 when its long-term ally, Assad, was on the ropes and struggling to survive.

  • Russia didn’t have to worry about the Turkish-Kurdish dimension, it was too busy steamrolling Syria’s disjointed opposition. ISIS to Russia was no different to other rebel groups; in the eyes of Moscow they were all a threat to Assad and warranted an iron fist.

    As Russia began to crush the anti-Assad opposition, the west could only watch from afar as the balance of power tilted in favour of the Syrian government.

  • the emergence of a US backed Kurdish powerhouse in the north of Syria and Turkish efforts to quell that rise. The sharp rise of ISIS and other Jihadist groups further muddied the waters, creating an extra element of risk for a possible US intervention. This all played into Putin’s hands.
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  • The Russians had an official casualty list of 41 soliders, though the real number may be higher, it is far removed from the thousands killed in the Soviet Union’s long and brutal insurgency war in Afghanistan.
  • Russia also has one eye on the future. In December it confirmed it will maintain a permanent military presence at its air and naval bases in Syria. The agreement signed for 49 years with Damascus will allow Moscow to harbour eleven warships in Tartus including nuclear ships.
  • Moscow ensured a position of strength for itself in Syria’s geo-political war, in the greater scope of things, it emerged victorious from a risky and dangerous decision to enter a foreign conflict.
  • Russia is also set for a long term economic investment in the country and has secured a long-term foothold in Syria’s energy sector potentially making Syria a future long term transit hub for oil and gas shipments to Europe. This allows Russia to expand and cement its control over a European gas supply.
Ed Webb

Curb Your Enthusiasm - Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • optimism is raging about the potential energy bounty lying underneath the eastern Mediterranean Sea. But energy development could as easily become a casualty as the cure for the region’s tortured geopolitics
  • Lebanon and Israel are at daggers drawn over new plans for exploration in offshore gas fields in disputed waters, and Hezbollah is using the energy dispute to ratchet up rhetoric against Israel. And this month, a Turkish naval ship intercepted an exploration vessel working in waters off Cyrus, threatening to escalate tensions between the Greek and Turkish halves of the divided island.
  • Israel’s first two gas fields are running at full speed, and two more could see investment decisions this year, notes Nikos Tsafos, an energy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Meanwhile, Egypt brought the Zohr field, its own mammoth gas discovery, online in record time, which promises to ease a cash crunch in Cairo aggravated by importing pricey gas.
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  • Israel’s two gas export deals — with Egypt and Jordan — were signed with the two Arab countries with which the Jewish state already had peace treaties, and even then relations are still fraught at times. Meanwhile, hopes that natural gas pipelines and projects could soothe years of tensions between Israel and Turkey have apparently evaporated.
  • Politics drives energy relations, not vice versa,”
  • Lebanon’s decision this month to award an exploration concession to three international firms — France’s Total, Italy’s Eni, and Russia’s Novatek — to drill in a promising block off the Lebanese coast has ignited fresh tensions between Beirut and Jerusalem.
  • Mediation was at the top of the agenda during Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s recent visit to Lebanon, as it has been for U.S. officials since 2012, but with little success. A senior U.S. diplomat tried again Wednesday but found little Lebanese appetite for U.S. proposals. While Israel wants continued U.S. mediation in the spat, Lebanon and especially Hezbollah see Washington as too pro-Israel to play that role, especially after the Donald Trump administration’s controversial decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said the United States is “not an honest broker.”
  • This month — as it did in 2014 — a Turkish ship intercepted a drilling vessel in Cypriot waters; Ankara, which recognizes the Turkish north of the divided island, refuses to cede those waters to Greek Cyprus and angrily warned it could take further action if development continues.

    The Turkish Foreign Ministry said it is “determined to take the necessary steps” to support the northern half of the island in its dispute with Greek Cypriots, who Ankara said are “irresponsibly jeopardizing the security and stability of the Eastern Mediterranean region.”

  • “Shared interest in [energy resources] might provide an incentive for cooperation among countries of the region that already enjoy more or less good relations,” Sukkarieh says. “But it is equally conceivable that they could fuel rivalries as well, like we are seeing lately with Turkey.”
Ed Webb

Can Russia Succeed Where America Failed in the Middle East? - LobeLog - 0 views

  • Specific criticisms included the claim by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that while Russia and Iran were working together to combat terrorism in Syria, U.S. policy was actually supporting it there. Sergey Karaganov, one of Moscow’s most important exponents of the Kremlin’s foreign-policy thinking, described American power as declining and hence ineffective while that of Russia, China, and India as rising in the Middle East. And several Russian speakers described Moscow as better placed to resolve the various conflicts in the Middle East since Russia has good relations with virtually everyone there (except, of course, the jihadists) while the U.S. has poor relations not just with its traditional adversaries in the region, but also with its traditional allies including Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
  • In the panel on Yemen, Ali Nasser Mohammad (former president of South Yemen) recalled how in the latter stages of the North Yemeni civil war in the 1960s, the opposing Yemeni sides failed to reach agreement through bilateral negotiations. It was only when their main external patrons, Egyptian President Nasser and Saudi King Faisal, reached an agreement on ending the conflict that progress was made in the inter-Yemeni dialogue. He suggested that similar agreements between external actors in the Middle East’s ongoing conflicts would be needed to facilitate conflict resolution between internal antagonists as well.
  • Russia is clearly in no position to pressure Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians so long as Israel continues to receive strong support from the U.S. Nor does there appear to be any other case in which all the main local participants in a Middle Eastern conflict prefer to work exclusively with Russia and not with the U.S.
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  • Russian-American cooperation in the Middle East will be difficult to achieve when their relations are hostile in other areas, including Europe. And even if they could come to any such agreement, it is doubtful that they could impose the terms on the region’s many strong-willed actors. The leaders of Iran and Turkey in particular seem willing and able to defy both Washington and Moscow if they choose to do so.

  • Moscow may not actually want to resolve them since it is the continuation of these conflicts that allows Moscow entrée into the region by stimulating demand from local antagonists for Russian support
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