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Ed Webb

Omani foreign minister meets Tillerson as Washington seeks channel to Tehran ... - 0 views

  • “The Trump administration, just like the Obama administration before it, may have come to recognise Oman's pragmatic relationship with Iran as a policy asset,” said Sigurd Neubauer, a non-resident fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.

    “Oman is able to have a pragmatic relationship with Iran because of its historic relationship with the US,” he noted, being a “strategic ally for nearly two centuries, and one of two GCC countries (along with Bahrain) to enjoy a free-trade agreement with the United States.”

Ed Webb

The Lights Are Going Out in the Middle East | The New Yorker - 0 views

  • The Middle East, though energy-rich, no longer has enough electricity. From Beirut to Baghdad, tens of millions of people now suffer daily outages, with a crippling impact on businesses, schools, health care, and other basic services, including running water and sewerage
  • With the exception of the Gulf states, infrastructure is old or inadequate in many of the twenty-three Arab countries. The region’s disparate wars, past and present, have damaged or destroyed electrical grids. Some governments, even in Iraq, can’t afford the cost of fuelling plants around the clock. Epic corruption has compounded physical challenges. Politicians have delayed or prevented solutions if their cronies don’t get contracts to fuel, maintain, or build power plants
  • movement of refugees has further strained equipment. Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt, already struggling, have each taken in hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees since 2011. The frazzled governor of Erbil, Nawzad Hadi Mawlood, told me that Iraq’s northern Kurdistan—home to four million Kurds—has taken in almost two million displaced Iraqis who fled the Islamic State since 2014, as well as more than a hundred thousand refugees fleeing the war in neighboring Syria since 2011. Kurdistan no longer has the facilities, fuel, or funds to provide power. It averages between nine and ten hours a day, a senior technician in Kurdistan’s power company told me, although it’s worse in other parts of Iraq.

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  • In Lebanon, Moustafa Baalbaki, a young software engineer, tried to help people cope with outages by developing the cell-phone app Beirut Electricity, which does what the government doesn’t: it forecasts power cuts in the capital—and sends alerts ten minutes before the power goes out.

Ed Webb

The Siege of Doha « LobeLog - 0 views

  • Despite all the onerous sanctions that the US has imposed against Iran over the years, which verge on economic warfare, there has never been a formal restriction on sales of food or medicine, including by US companies. The Saudi-UAE boycott, however, closed off food and medicine shipments to Qatar wherever possible, in the middle of Ramadan. I don’t know if this technically constitutes a breach of international humanitarian law, but it is certainly drastic by modern standards of political conflict.
  • it is striking that the attacks on dissident forces in Yemen have employed the same tactics. Access to food and medicine have been denied routinely in the name of military expediency, reducing the population to near starvation and subject to outbreaks of cholera and other epidemics
  • In political and social terms, these demands are more stringent than the documents of surrender that the United States and its coalition allies imposed against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq at Safwan in 1991 after one of the greatest defeats in military history. There was no attempt to dictate to the Iraqis what they could say, or what they could believe, or who they could have as friends. This appears to be the equivalent of regime change, even if that is not the stated intention.
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  • in light of the background and history of the ultra-wealthy Arab Gulf kingdoms, it is very difficult to accept at face value this newfound determination to defeat terrorism by humiliating a smaller neighbor whose differences consist primarily of alternative choices of distasteful proxies
  • the Saudi-UAE siege appears to be a reckless act of coercion by two of the largest and wealthiest states in the region against a smaller, but also vastly wealthy state that chose an alternative political path. It has split the Gulf Cooperation Council down the center and seems to be signaling that membership in this club implies not cooperation so much as unswerving obedience to the Saudi metropole. That goes beyond a mere dynastic spat between rival domains and raises serious questions about the future of the institution itself
Ed Webb

Qatar Opens Its Doors to All, to the Dismay of Some - The New York Times - 0 views

  • the atmosphere of intrigue and opulence for which the capital of Qatar, a dust-blown backwater until a few decades ago, has become famous as the great freewheeling hub of the Middle East
  • that welcome-all attitude is precisely what has recently angered Qatar’s much larger neighbors and plunged the Middle East into one of its most dramatic diplomatic showdowns
  • The blockading nations — Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain — insist that Qatar is using an open-door policy to destabilize its neighbors. They say that Doha, rather than the benign meeting ground described by Qataris, is a city where terrorism is bankrolled, not battled against.
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  • In Doha, wealthy Qataris and Western expatriates mingle with Syrian exiles, Sudanese commanders and Libyan Islamists, many of them funded by the Qatari state. The Qataris sometimes play peacemaker: Their diplomats brokered a peace deal in Lebanon in 2008 and negotiated the release of numerous hostages, including Peter Theo Curtis, an American journalist being held in Syria, in 2014.

    But critics say that, often as not, rather than acting as a neutral peacemaker, Qatar takes sides in conflicts — helping oust Muammar el-Qaddafi in Libya in 2011, or turning a blind eye to wealthy citizens who funnel cash to extremist Islamist groups in Syria.

  • what infuriates the Saudis, Emiratis, Egyptians and Bahrainis most of all is that Doha has also provided shelter to Islamist dissidents from their own countries — and given them a voice on the Qatar-owned television station, Al Jazeera.
  • “The Emiratis and the Saudis seem to have miscalculated their position,” said Mehran Kamrava, the author of “Qatar: Small State, Big Politics” and a professor at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar. “They thought that if they went all-out with a blockade, the Qataris would balk. But they haven’t.”
  • American officials privately say they would prefer Hamas was based in Doha rather than in a hostile capital like Tehran
  • Qatar is leveraging the wide range of ties its foreign policy has fostered. Food supplies and a few dozen soldiers from Turkey arrived in Doha after the embargo started on June 5.
Ed Webb

Mohammed bin Salman named Saudi Arabia's crown prince | Saudi Arabia News | Al Jazeera - 1 views

  • Saudi Arabia's King Salman has appointed his son, Mohammed bin Salman, as heir, in a major reshuffle announced early on Wednesday.

    A royal decree removed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, a 57-year-old nephew of the king, as next-in-line to the throne and replaced him with Mohammed bin Salman, 31, who was previously the deputy crown prince.

    According to the official Saudi Press Agency, the newly announced crown prince was also named deputy prime minister and maintained his post as defence minister.

    The former crown prince was also fired from his post as interior minister, the decree said.

  • Some royal observers had long suspected Mohammed bin Salman's rise to power under his father's reign might also accelerate his ascension to the throne.

    The young prince was little known to Saudis and outsiders before Salman became king in January 2015. He had previously been in charge of his father's royal court when Salman was the crown prince.

  • Mohammed bin Nayef was not believed to have played a significant role in Saudi and UAE-led efforts to isolate Qatar for its alleged support of Islamist groups and ties with Iran.

    The prince had appeared to be slipping from the public eye as his cousin, Mohammed bin Salman, embarked on major overseas visits, including a trip to the White House to meet President Donald Trump in March.

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  • Despite Mohammed bin Salman's ambitions, which include overhauling the kingdom's economy away from its reliance on oil, the prince has faced criticism for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, which he oversees as defence minister.

    The war, launched more than two years ago, has failed to dislodge Iranian-allied rebels known as Houthis from the capital, Sanaa, and has had devastating effects on the impoverished country.

    Rights groups say Saudi forces have killed scores of civilians and have called on the United States, as well as the UK and France, to halt the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia that could be used in the Yemen war.

Ed Webb

How Different-and Dangerous-Is Terrorism Today? | The New Yorker - 2 views

  • terrorism is now a standard feature of asymmetric warfare, with fewer wars pitting states against each other and more of the combatants being non-state actors with less traditional forms of weaponry
  • while the absolute number of attacks is down, the lethality of terrorism has risen sharply in the past two years
  • “There may have been, in aggregate, more terrorism in the seventies and eighties, but it was discriminate,” he said. “They kept their terrorism within boundaries related to their cause. Today it’s different. It’s less predictable, less coherent and less cohesive. It leaves the impression of serendipity. ISIS posts pictures of a vehicle and says get in your car and drive into people—and that’s all it takes.”
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  • professional or experienced terrorists are being supplemented by a proliferating array of amateurs
  • Today’s third generation is engaged in plots that are simpler yet more widespread than the 9/11 attacks by Al Qaeda, Watts told me. “They’re not as sophisticated as in the Al Qaeda era, when complex operations were well coördinated and carried out by a few designated men. Now, some are not even trained or formally recruited. They’re self-empowered.” As a result, killing people on a bridge may not have the same impact or symbolic emphasis as an attack on a U.S. Embassy or the World Trade Center. But the reaction can be just as profound.
  • “The West can do things on the margins to be safer,” Berger said, but it still faces another “five or ten years of potentially dangerous situations. There’s not any silver bullet that will reduce the occurrence of these events in the short term. We need to be thinking about resilience—and how we’re going to assimilate events when they happen.”
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    Wright is well-informed on foreign affairs, security, and terrorism.
Ed Webb

Qatar's Gulf Allies Have Had Enough of Doha's Broken Promises - 1 views

  • Citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states woke up on Monday morning to what is the most severe crisis in the regional block’s 38 year history to date. In a closely coordinated series of statements, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE, along with Egypt, announced the severing of ties with the peninsular state of Qatar.
  • In what may be the most debilitating move, Qatar’s border with Saudi Arabia—which is its only land border —has been shut and all flights over Saudi and UAE airspace has been closed off to Qatar bound flights and Qatar Airways. Qatari citizens have been given two weeks to leave Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE and all travel by these countries citizens to Qatar is now prohibited.
  • Other Qatar backed networks that were accused of incitement on official Gulf TV channels include Al Quds Al Arabi (Arab Jerusalem) newspaper which was founded in London in 1989, online Arabic news portal Arabi 21, the London based website Middle East Eye, the Arabic version of Huffington Post which is headed by former Al Jazeera boss Waddah Khanfar and Al Khaleej Al Jadeed (the New Gulf).
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  • It is likely that this time the Gulf States will demand the complete shuttering of the Al Jazeera TV Network before any mediation can take place. Additionally, the plug will have to be pulled on networks funded by Qatar such as Al Araby Al Jadeed (The New Arab), originally set up to compete with Al Jazeera and headed by former Arab Israeli politician Azmi Bishara.
  • will also demand the expulsion of all Muslim Brotherhood leaders and their Hamas affiliate figures from Qatar, along with Azmi Bishara and Islamist writer Yasser Al-Za'atra. Other demands will include the sacking of Al Arab newspaper editor Abdullah Al Athba
  • It seems though the initial pressure has already somewhat worked on Qatar. Last week Doha deported Saudi activist Mohammed Al-Otaibi who arrived in Qatar in March, while a number of Hamas officials have left Qatar at the country’s request.
  • Qatar imports over 90 percent of its food, and by one estimate about 40 percent of that comes from the its only land border, which is now closed. Within hours photos started circulating on social media of Qatari supermarket aisles that have been emptied by panicked shoppers. Furthermore Gulf media has hinted at an escalation of the dispute with Qatari commercial and trade ties being severed next.

Ed Webb

What's going on with Qatar? - The Washington Post - 0 views

  • The ferocity and the sheer scale of the “Qatar-bashing” articles suggest that an orchestrated campaign is underway to discredit Doha regionally but also — crucially — in the eyes of the Trump administration.
  • A convergence of factors appears to have shifted the geopolitical landscape in the Persian Gulf. The Trump administration signaled that it intends to follow a set of regional policies that are aligned far closer to those of Abu Dhabi and Riyadh than Doha. Both Mohammed bin Zayed and Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman were high-profile visitors to Washington in the run-up to the Riyadh summit with Arab and Islamic leaders.

    Further, the policy inexperience of many within Trump’s inner circle has presented an opportunity for both the Saudis and the Emiratis to shape the administration’s thinking on critical regional issues such as Iran and Islamism, both of which were evident during the Riyadh visit.

  • Key principals within the Trump administration, such as Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo, hold views on Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood that are virtually indistinguishable from those in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are emerging as the two spearheads around which U.S. regional policies are realigning, including a set of hawkish defense and security interests
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  • There are differences between this latest disagreement and the past — not least in the way the current standoff is being played out in the media rather than behind the closed doors of leaders’ meetings — and no act equivalent to the withdrawal of the ambassadors. In fact, few officials have publicly joined the feeding frenzy and have been careful not to single Qatar out by name in calling for brotherly unity against the Iranian “menace.”

  • By allowing the media campaign to run into a second week with no apparent letup, policymakers in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi may be hoping to pressure the leadership in Doha into making concessions or watching to see whether figures within the Trump administration take the bait without having to resort to official threats or sanctions. Where this leaves the GCC as an entity in the age of Trump is anyone’s guess
Ed Webb

Just What The Middle East Needs -- $110 Billion More In Weapons | HuffPost - 1 views

  • It appears the Trump administration is counting on the country with the worst human rights record in the region to enforce peace and security in the Middle East.
  • Piled on top of this enormous arms lot are precision-guided munitions that President Obama would not sell the Saudis. That’s not because the Obama folks didn’t like selling weapons to the Saudis — Obama sold more weapons and gear to Saudi Arabia in eight years than all other previous administrations combined. No, Obama withheld precision-guided munitions because the Saudis were using U.S.-provided munitions to repeatedly target civilian and humanitarian sites in their bombing campaign inside Yemen, despite regular protests from the United States.
  • millions of Yemenis are being radicalized against the country they blame for the civilian deaths: the United States. By selling the Saudis these precision-guided weapons more not fewer civilians will be killed because it is Saudi Arabia’s strategy to starve Yemenis to death to increase their own leverage at the negotiating table. They couldn’t do this without the weapons we are selling them.
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  • The Saudis’ obsession with Iran, and the proxy wars (like Yemen) that flow from this obsession, mean that they have little bandwidth to go after extremist groups. Meanwhile, the Saudis continue to export a version of Islam called Wahhabism that is a crucial building block for the perversion of Islam parroted by groups like al Qaeda
  • we have to ask whether continuing to fuel the growing proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran is the right way to bring peace to the Middle East. To the extent this conflict is going to continue, we are clearly on the Saudis’ side, but the inarguable effect of selling more capable weapons to the Saudis is the acceleration of weapons build-up in Iran
  • feeding the arms race between the two nations probably isn’t the best long-term strategy
  • What do we have to gain by going in so enthusiastically with the Sunnis against the Shia in their fight for power in the Middle East? This isn’t our fight, and history suggests the U.S. military meddling in the Middle East ends up great for U.S. military contractors, but pretty miserable for everyone else.
  • $110 billion could educate every single one of the 30 million African primary school age children who has no access to school today...for five years
Ed Webb

Israel-US spat erupts ahead of Trump visit to region - 1 views

  • A diplomatic spat on Monday erupted between U.S. and Israeli officials, just days before a planned visit by President Donald Trump, after an American representative questioned Israel’s claim to one of the holiest sites in Judaism.
  • The Western Wall is revered as the holiest site where Jews can pray, and according to Channel 2 TV, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked to join Trump. The report said the Americans rebuffed the request, with one official telling the Israelis the site is “not your territory.” It said the comment prompted shouting from the Israeli preparatory team.
  • An official in Netanyahu’s office said the U.S. comment was “received with astonishment” and that Israel had asked the White House for an explanation.
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  • Israeli officials appear to be growing increasingly nervous over Trump’s visit
  • Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett, a senior member of Netanyahu’s coalition government, voiced concern Monday that “there has been a kind of change in the spirit” of Trump’s statements since he was elected.

    Bennett said he was not sure why Trump has changed his rhetoric.

    Bennett said he welcomed Trump’s arrival next week, but said Israel also has to stick to its positions. He said Israel must oppose attempts to establish a Palestinian state and insist on Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem “forever.”

mdashcund

Interactive Map - 4 views

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    B'tselem (literal meaning "the image") is a Hebrew word that refers to the Torah's reference to God creating humankind in the image of Himself. It is also an Israeli news source that focuses on educating the Israeli public and international community about the realities of the conflict. This super fun, interactive map provides information on Palestinian communities, Israeli settlements, checkpoints, the Separation Barrier, agricultural gates in the Barrier, and more. Hundreds of reports and video segments that B'Tselem gathered since its start in 1989 are displayed by location. You should also click around for their articles!
Ed Webb

Hacking Group Claims N.S.A. Infiltrated Mideast Banking System - The New York Times - 0 views

  • evidence that the N.S.A. had infiltrated the backbone of the Middle East’s banking infrastructure.

  • Among the leaks on Friday was an extensive list of PowerPoint and Excel documents that, if authentic, indicate that the N.S.A. has successfully infiltrated EastNets, a company based in Dubai that helps to manage transactions in the international bank messaging system called Swift.
  • The latest leaks suggest that, by hacking EastNets, the N.S.A. may have successfully hacked, or at minimum targeted, computers inside some of the biggest banks in the Middle East, including ones in Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates; Kuwait; Qatar; Syria; Yemen; and the Palestinian territories.
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  • On Friday, EastNets denied that it had been hacked. In a statement, the company said its Swift service bureau runs on a separate secure network that cannot be reached over the public internet. The company said the leaked documents that claimed its computers had been compromised referred to an old server that the bureau had retired in 2013.

    “While we cannot ascertain the information that has been published, we can confirm that no EastNets customer data has been compromised in any way,” Hazem Mulhim, EastNets’ chief executive, said in the statement.

  • Among those listed as having been successfully “implanted,” or infected with spyware, are Noor Bank, Tadhamon International Islamic Bank, Al Quds Bank for Development and Investment, Arcapita Bank and the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development.
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