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Middle East Press (29 Apr 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)



Every Iraqi Is a Daesh Suspect in Mosul: New Age Islam's Selection, 29 April 2017






New Age Islam Edit Bureau

29 April 2017

Every Iraqi Is A Daesh Suspect In Mosul

By Ulf Laessing

The Dreams Of Abandoned Children

By Aisha Abbas Natto

When 100 Days Feels Like Eternity

By Yossi Mekelberg

Another Part Of The Story: Turkish Diaspora And Politics

By Sinem Cengiz

The Problem With Europe

By Taha Akyol

From The Axis Of Evil To Appeasement

By Dr. Manuel Almeida

Hezbollah’s Real Message From Southern Lebanon

By Diana Moukalled

Saudi Csos Rush To Apply For Licenses

By Samar Fatany

Will Getting Rid Of Expat Workers Eliminate Saudi Unemployment?

By Ehsan Buhulaiga

Why An Extension Of The OPEC Deal Matters

By Cornelia Meyer

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau

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Every Iraqi Is A Daesh Suspect In Mosul

By Ulf Laessing

April 27, 2017

Thousands of men, many innocent, are interrogated and detained at camps on suspicion of having links with the extremist group

The Iraqi intelligence officer kept barking the same question at the 46-year-old man who was looking nervously at his hands after having escaped Mosul: "Why do you still have a beard?"

Having walked with his wife and children across frontlines in Iraq's second-largest city, dodging gunfights between Iraqi forces and Daesh, the man, Mohammed, was hoping for a tent and chance to rest in the Hammam Al Alil camp for displaced people.

Instead he ended up being interrogated and then detained - a fate shared with an estimated 2,000 others accused of having ties to the militants, according to human rights activists. Up to 2,000 people flee Mosul every day as government forces close in on besieged Daesh fighters in the western half of the city, their biggest remaining stronghold in Iraq.

The exodus has put pressure on the security forces to root out any militants posing as displaced people in order to escape or stage suicide attacks.

Every adult male coming to Hammam Al Alil camp - the arrival point for the displaced - is led to a fenced compound where officers inspect their identity cards and check them against a database of Daesh suspects. But human rights activists and residents say the database is not only based on evidence but also personal grudges and - in the case of Mohammed - mere appearances. Beards were mandatory under the Sunni Muslim militants who took control of the city in 2014.

"Sir, I haven't had time to shave yet. I was running away," the man kept saying as his wife and children were kept in a separate fenced area. "Where are you from? What were you doing under Daesh?" the officer demanded as Mohammed looked at the ground during an interrogation.

Not satisfied with the answers, the officer sent him to a converted shipping container for further questioning, even though his name was not in the computer. "He comes from Babel, a village outside Mosul where Daesh snipers have been hiding in farms shooting at civilians," the officer said, explaining his decision. "Before he can go we need to check with our colleagues there what he did under Daesh."

Security checks had started when Mohammed arrived at the first army checkpoint outside Mosul. There he was put with dozens of others on a bus to Hammam Al Alil. Most displaced people stay just two hours at the fenced compound to see their papers verified, while being offered water and food before getting a tent or a lift to another camp.

But up to 30 are arrested every day for suspected militant ties, said Lieutenant General Bassam Hussein Ali, head of joint security operations to evacuate displaced people from Mosul. "Daesh is sending people to camps, so we need to filter them."

New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) estimates some 1,200 have been detained and at least 700 others sent to Baghdad for prosecution, though it is not known yet if any have been convicted.

Laith Mohammed, a senior intelligence officer at Hammam Al Alil, said trusted officers and sources who had fled Mosul had compiled lists of who had worked with Daesh. He pointed to two policemen who were screening some 40 men seated next to each other on the ground.

Ali, the head of security operations, said each suspect would ultimately be referred to a judge "to be punished in accordance to the guilt he has committed. We only check names of the males on computers and if it appears that the names are on the wanted list of the security forces, we separate him from his family and we inform his family that he will be detained for interrogation," he said.

But HRW's senior Iraq researcher Belkis Wille said two directors of prisons in Hammam Al Alil and Qayyarah, also located south of Mosul, had told her they believed a third of their inmates were innocent - often held because they had similar names to wanted people. One watch list contained some 80,000 suspects. Others were jailed because of false accusations motivated by personal quarrels. "Often there is simply a land dispute, or tribal dispute or family dispute," said Wille. "Often it's about women. Some guy wanted to marry the sister of some other guy."

Major General Haydar Youssef Abdalla, head of the elite squad in Iraq's Federal Police, said to avoid wrongful accusations, people making allegations needed to provide witnesses. The security checks don't end in the camp, home to 30,000 displaced.

Whoever is allowed to travel on to relatives living in a safer part of Mosul needs another permit to leave the city. Queues form at road checkpoints where people have to stop to show their papers.

Separate security clearance is needed to reclaim money stuck in a bank, or salaries for public servants held up by the government.

Source: khaleejtimes.com/article/20170427/ARTICLE/170429113/1098

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The Dreams Of Abandoned Children

By Aisha Abbas Natto

April 29, 2017

The hardest dreams are the dreams that choose us when our condition is such that we cannot find a way to reach them. They are the ones that call on us to live them, while we are unable to do so.

My experience of meeting girls at an orphanage was like holding a burning coal in my bare hand. I witnessed the silent sorrow of girls who do not know their parents; their only fault being that they were born out of wedlock and then abandoned.

There was a girl named Aisha. She had a roasted coffee bean complexion, thick curly black hair and shining black eyes. Aisha was a member of a group that was responsible for designing a rehabilitation program to prepare girls for the labor market. She sat next to me and whispered in my ear that she knew that her father lived in a city far from Jeddah.

Humans are passionately fond of reuniting with those who are absent from their lives. Aisha continuously asked about the town where her father lived. She asked how far it was from Jeddah, whether it would be possible to meet him if she travelled there and searched for him. She even asked whether Careem, the transportation service, took passengers there.

The supervisor at the orphanage came and tried to talk to her about the rehabilitation program. However, Aisha dreamt only of meeting her absent father. “You know the city where my father lives, don’t you?” she asked.

The supervisor answered, “Nobody here knows who your parents are.” Aisha, however, was unconvinced. One night, she sneaked out of the orphanage to search for her father. She was not successful and returned. Not being able to meet him left her hurt.

I later met Aisah at another meeting. She looked like a sad heron, hovering around with a heart filled with agony and sorrow. “When are you graduating from university?” I asked. She ignored my question and instead told me about her journey. “I visited the town where my father lives,” she said. I asked her how she knew that that was where he lived. She simply answered that the people there have the same complexion that she has. She then whispered, “All of you say that love generates love, so how can it be that I was born from sin?”

Source: saudigazette.com.sa/opinion/local-viewpoint/dreams-abandoned-children/

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When 100 Days Feels Like Eternity

By Yossi Mekelberg

28 April 2017

There is something artificial about most political anniversaries, though they are an opportunity to stop and reflect. A first milestone for any US president is their first 100 days in the White House. In the case of Donald Trump, one of the main challenges is to tell the content from the theater. Thus far his style of governance is erratic and hectic, reflecting his volatile and unpredictable character, as demonstrated throughout the election campaign.

Trump is certainly a departure from anyone and anything that preceded him in the Oval Office. It is hard to follow any thread of coherent policies in domestic or international affairs. This is reflected in the way the public sees him three months into his presidency. It might not be that surprising for Trump, who won the election with a minority of the popular vote, that his public approval ratings are not high. Yet at 41 percent, as measured by Gallup, he entertains the lowest approval rating for a newly elected president at this stage of the presidency since this measure was introduced under Dwight Eisenhower.

The Trump in office is not very different from the man who campaigned for the highest post in the country. He largely seems unaware that electioneering is over, and that he is already the person in power. He still enjoys mass rallies instead of the painstaking process of decision-making or learning the complex task of running the most powerful country in the world. Had he concentrated on the latter, he could have avoided many of his early fiascos, from appointing unsuitable people to senior positions, to issuing executive orders that ended up being overridden by federal courts. His decisions have so far ranged from the bizarre to the reckless, with the occasional flicker of rationality. Most worrisome is that it is not clear whether he is able to discern fact from fiction, or truth from lies.

He failed miserably in delivering two of his major promises during the election campaign — on immigration and taxes — because of dogma mixed with hastiness. It is one thing to accept that he is a novice president with no political experience trying to execute many of his election promises early in his tenure to gain credibility. It is completely different to do so without assessing the consequences of his actions. The White House is not Trump Tower, in which he can rule in an authoritarian manner. Banning the travel of Muslims, despite denials by the new administration it was aimed solely at Muslims, caused consternation at home and uproar abroad. It painted the country under Trump’s leadership as racist. Furthermore, when the travel ban failed to pass its first legal hurdle in its two incarnations, it exposed the Trump administration’s ineptitude. Similarly, attempts to repeal former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, known better as Obamacare, failed due to opposition from both Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives, who could not reach an agreement on a replacement plan. These embarrassments indicate a lack of groundwork and basic understanding of how the US political system works.

This is largely due to awkward appointments to top positions in the administration, while not filling hundreds of key executive branch positions, leaving the administration short on much-needed expertise. Instead, Trump favors cronyism, appointing close family members, friends and business associates to influential positions regardless of their qualifications. Consequently, deep rifts have allegedly already appeared within his very close circle of advisors, not to mention losing his first choice of national security advisor, Mike Flynn, in record time. Flynn had to resign due to allegations of his undisclosed engagement with Russian officials.

If this is not alarming enough, Trump the self-proclaimed isolationist presidential candidate is becoming Trump the adventurist president. Using military force in Syria as retaliation for the use of chemical weapons by the regime has its own logic, as much as curbing North Korea’s growing bellicose behavior and nuclear program. But there is no evidence in either case that the Trump administration has a well-thought-through strategy toward these countries. There is much posturing with a real danger of miscalculated escalation. The unprecedented summoning of the entire US Senate to the White House for a briefing about the situation in the Korean Peninsula makes good television, but in conjunction with a growing US Navy presence in the region, this might elicit a military reaction from the inexperienced and impulsive North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. It is where assertive, subtle and multilateral action is required instead of only a show of force.

It has been merely 100 days of President Trump, and despite his compulsive policy-setting, we are none the wiser as to whether this administration is able to settle down and have some strategic vision of the US and the world. If anything can be learned from Trump’s first 100 days, it is that policies are made on the hoof, with the likely outcome of moving from crisis to crisis with dangerously unforeseen results. He summed up his experience to date by saying he was missing his old life. He is not the only one.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1091716

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Another Part Of The Story: Turkish Diaspora And Politics

By Sinem Cengiz

28 April 2017

As we all still speak about the results of Turkey’s April 16 constitutional referendum to replace the country’s parliamentary system with a presidential model that ended with a victory for the “yes” camp, let us take a look at another side of the story. That is Turkish diaspora and their reaction to referendum.

Although around 3 million Turkish citizens abroad were eligible to vote, only about half of them went to the polls. Yet, their votes played a significant role in the outcome of this historic referendum. Moreover, expat votes tell a lot in what Turks living outside think about Turkish politics and the future of their country.

Going beyond the ordinary discussions that are focused merely in politics in Turkey, I will focus on the voting behavior of Turkish diaspora in Europe in comparison with those living in the Gulf which is worth analyzing, while acknowledging that there might be some parts that I may miss.

High turnout in voting from abroad is actually a new political case. Since 2012, Turks abroad are granted the right to vote in domestic elections at Turkish diplomatic missions abroad — a move that increased the turnout among expats. With this referendum, it is the fourth time that diaspora votes have played a crucial role after 2014 presidential election, June 2015 national election and November 2015 snap election.

Although for many years, Turkish politicians were interested in keeping the country’s politics alive among the diaspora, the importance of the expat vote really attracted attention with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), which paid a special focus on the Turkish diaspora as a crucial electorate gain and gave priority to them in its election campaigns. It even opened a special agency, named Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities (YTB), to deal with the issues of Turks outside. While other Turkish political parties recently opened branches in abroad, it should not be a surprise for anyone that yes votes from expats in Europe was in favor of AK Party. As a Turkish proverb says, “what you sow is what you reap.”

Turkish leaders even highlighted the significance of the diaspora vote when Turkey got into a diplomatic row with several EU countries, which banned Turkish ministers from addressing rallies of expatriates. The reaction of the European leaders not only led to a historic low in Turkish-EU relations, but also helped in galvanizing “yes” votes from Turks abroad.

Looking at the figures, we can see this clearly. More than 63 percent of Turkish voters in Germany, that has the highest number of Turkish migrants in Europe, voted “yes.” The situation was largely same in France, Belgium, Austria, Denmark and the Netherlands.

However, unlike in Europe, the Turkish diaspora in Gulf countries had different opinion. With the exception of Saudi Arabia, more than 80 percent of the voters said “no.” Though small in numbers compared to Turkish expats in Europe, it was interesting to see the figure this high. It is worth asking then, “why is that so?” Needless to say, the answers lie in years of academic research on Turkish diaspora, but in brief, there are several factors, such as class, education, religious and ethnic, that play a significant role in the voting behavior of the Turkish diaspora in Europe and the Gulf.

Turkish migration to Europe started almost five decades ago from small villages or towns and those migrants were blue-collar workers with limited formal education. So, class and education are important factors that influence voting behaviors. Also, being in the third generation, five million people of Turkish origin live in the EU. The upbringing of these generations is significant in shaping their attitudes towards politics.

Secondly, some Turks in Europe tend to be more nationalist both due to their being away from home while also failing to fully integrate to the host country’s social, economic and political environment. Here, nationalist sentiments and the feeling of being “foreign” feed the voting tendency. However, migrants from Turkey also include Kurds and Alevites, whose support for the opposition seems to be more dominant, unlike those mentioned above.

The third factor is the failure of integration. Particularly after seeing that Turks in their country’s vote for “yes,” several European politicians raised the issue of revoking dual citizenship rights, and even some called to deport Turks. Therefore, these Turks see Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a “savior” and they buy his rhetoric particularly at a time when xenophobia and Islamophobia in Europe is on the rise.

However, Turks in the Gulf is quite different than in Europe. The immigration of Turkish workers into Europe continued until early 1980s. From that time onward, Turkish labor force changed its route to Middle East and Gulf countries. As a Turk who lived in a Gulf country for almost two decades, I could say that there is a marked difference between Turks in Europe and those in Gulf.

First of all, unlike Turkish workforce in Europe, those in Gulf are not blue-collar workers but are businessmen, investors or professionals working for either local or Turkish companies. Also there are Turkish academics who work in Gulf universities. This is a new phenomenon. With the increasing business ties between Turkey and the Gulf in the past decade, the workforce in the Gulf changed. However, there is also a significant presence of Turkish citizens coming from Turkey’s southern provinces of Adana, Mersin and Hatay who are Arab Alevis who tend to vote for leftist parties in Turkey. Due to both their religious, educational and class background, these people tend to be more critical of the ruling party in Turkey.

That is to say, rather than criticizing the Turkish community in Europe or Gulf due to their voting behavior, it is necessary to examine these factors all together. Thus, figures show that the votes coming from abroad should not have come as a surprise.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1091786

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The Problem With Europe

By Taha Akyol

April/29/2017

Will our problems with Europe grow, or will a decrease to a manageable level be achieved?

If Europe is an “alliance of the crusaders,” then it is an enemy of Turkey well in advance; there is no solution to the issues. Why Europe supported the rule of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) until 2011; that is another matter.

If the Venice Commission and OSCE reports are fictitious texts penned with animosity against Turkey then why the reports of these institutions on Turkey were positive until recently; that is another matter.

If Europe is not considered a “direct enemy or a direct lover,” but is believed that there are certain concrete issues between us; then the solutions can be developed.

A typical issue is the death penalty. Yes, crowds are shouting in support of the death penalty especially for those July 15, 2016, coup attempt putschists. If politicians agree and bring back the capital punishment, then it is definite that bigger problems will erupt in relations with the EU. Are the crowds that demand the death penalty aware of this? Another useful piece of information is that a capital punishment introduced cannot be retroactive. It will be effective for crimes that will be committed after the day it goes into effect.

t cannot be executed on the July 15 murderers; neither the Besiktas, Reina, Ankara Train Station and Gaziantep murderers.

Well, what is the “rationale” in creating even bigger problems for Turkey by introducing a capital punishment that will not be retroactive while we are already experiencing serious issues in our foreign policy?

Is it to deter those who plan to carry out terror acts in the future? But, on those years when the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was founded and grew, Turkey had the capital punishment.

Turkey will be able to fight terror more effectively and “increase its friends” not by becoming more of a Middle Eastern country but by becoming a more democratic and lawful state. 

Now, let us leave aside the epic/heroic enthusiasm of the crowds and look, from a “logical” point of view, how to act before the Venice Commission and OSCE reports.

The Venice Commission is an institution the AKP rule has consulted to during difficult times, one which it has sought legal support from. It is the judiciary brain of the Council of Europe. Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu has many statements praising the Venice Commission in the past.

In the OSCE delegation, there were certain people from marginal and communist groups from the PACE. But they did not write the OSCE report. The report is compiled according to the report of several observers in a format that is applied to all countries.

No matter how we blame these reports, the U.S. Department of State said they would wait for the OSCE report. German Chancellor Angela Merkel also urged Turkey to answer questions raised by observers. “The Turkish government must measure itself based on this report and answer the questions raised in it. We will very carefully follow how Turkey deals with reports of possible irregularities,” Merkel told the Bundestag lower house of parliament. Our accusations are only heard by our own selves.

Instead of that, what if experts from the justice and foreign ministries write the factual and academic failures they see in these reports… What if we start taking the steps to raise our inadequate legal and democracy standards? If our statesmen talk these with their European counterparts, wouldn’t it be a more correct stance?

If our relations with the West worsen, we would feel its harms in the future much more severely.

Source: hurriyetdailynews.com/the-problem-with-europe-.aspx?pageID=449&nID=112549&NewsCatID=458

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From The Axis Of Evil To Appeasement

By Dr. Manuel Almeida

28 April 2017

EARLIER this week, Politico revealed some of the inner workings of the Obama administration in the run up to the nuclear deal with Iran, in an investigative piece well worth the read. In January 2016, as the US magazine reports, the Obama administration announced the release of seven Iranian-born prisoners, described by the then-president as “civilians” and by a senior administration official as businessmen convicted for, or accused of, violating the trade embargo.

In fact, some were accused by the Justice Department of being threats to national security. Three of them belonged to an illegal procurement network that supplied Iran, as the piece describes, with “US-made microelectronics with applications in surface-to-air and cruise missiles like the kind Tehran test-fired recently.” Another was serving an eight-year sentence “for conspiring to supply Iran with satellite technology and hardware.”

Following the nuclear deal, Arab Gulf governments were often criticized for obsessing about the Iranian threat and exaggerating the extent to which the Obama administration cosied up to Tehran. Politico’s story is yet another vindication of those concerns beyond the evident effects across the Middle East, in Syria, Iraq or Yemen.

These specific concessions to draw Iran into the nuclear deal did not end there. The Justice Department dropped charges and international arrest warrants against 14 other fugitives. Among their activities are believed to be the smuggling to Iran of US military equipment and high-tech components for improvised explosive devices (IEDs), then used by pro-Iran Shiite militias to kill hundreds of US soldiers in Iraq.

A glaring case was the withdrawal of the charges against a suspected member of a network that for years procured thousands of pieces of equipment (including US-made sensors for uranium enrichment centrifuges) with nuclear applications, via China, with Iran as the final destination.

Based on interviews with key government people involved and an analysis of court records, Politico reports that since 2014 officials in the Obama administration began “slow-walking some significant investigations and prosecutions of Iranian procurement networks operating in the US.”

These actions, which run against decades of counter-proliferation efforts by US authorities, are part of a larger picture. Tehran obtained unprecedented access to the world economy and global oil markets, without any positive impact on its internal politics or changes in its regional behavior. If anything, the opposite is true.

The former president’s determination to strike a deal with Iran no matter what, in search of an achievement that would go down in history as the high mark of his presidency, is well-known. Yet there was a deeper logic at play.

Although often criticized by regional experts for having no Middle East policy beyond fighting terrorism and striking a deal with Iran, Barack Obama had a specific vision of what US foreign policy and its global role ought to be.

Two interviews, with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg in March 2016 and with the New York Times’ Tom Friedman in April 2015, remain the best summary of the problematic Obama Doctrine. Asked by Friedman if there was a common thread to his administration’s moves to put an end to the longstanding policies of isolating Cuba, Myanmar and Iran, Obama replied that engagement coupled with awareness of US strategic needs was a far more promising approach.

The president compared the cases of Cuba and Iran, and defended engagement with both. He described Cuba as “a tiny little country” that did not represent a threat to the “core security interests” of the US, and Iran as “a larger country, a dangerous country, one that has engaged in activities that resulted in the death of US citizens.”

But Obama dismissed the scale of the Iranian threat by noting the difference between the US and Iran’s military budgets. “The doctrine is: We will engage, but we preserve all our capabilities,” Obama concluded.

A year later, he proudly told Goldberg that not having enforced the famous red line he had set on the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime was “the right decision to make.” By dropping one of the two key pillars of his doctrine, the threat of the use of force in extreme circumstances, Obama completely discredited it. It sent all the wrong signals to the genocidal Syrian regime, its Iranian backers and rogue regimes such as North Korea. Inevitably, any attempts by his successor to reverse course were bound to be interpreted in Tehran (or Pyongyang for that matter) as offensive moves.

Obama also hinted to The Atlantic that Saudi Arabia needed to “share” the region with Iran, thus significantly downplaying the fact that Iran’s foreign policy is deeply imperial, aggressive and well-versed in using religion, sectarianism, militias and terrorists as tools. It is bent on overturning the regional order without having anything good to replace it with. Obama’s fatalistic view of the region led him to believe there was little the US could to change things on the ground.

Ultimately, his notion of engagement with regimes as different as Cuba’s, Myanmar’s or Iran’s is as problematic as the much-vilified notion of the Axis of Evil, the term coined by then-President George W. Bush in 2002 to refer to Iran, Iraq (then under Saddam Hussein) and North Korea.

Ideologues of the Axis of Evil such as the firebrand John R. Bolton, who added Cuba, Libya and Syria to the list, must feel at least partially vindicated today regardless of the Iraq debacle.

The same cannot be said of Obama’s one-size-fits-all approach to remarkably different cases, such as the radical Iranian regime and its military backers, and a persistent but today strategically irrelevant and externally harmless communist regime in Cuba.

He was right to engage Cuba and lift trade restrictions. His reasoning that the best way to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions was through negotiations was sound. Anyone in their right mind should know a war with Iran would be terrible for the Middle East. On Iran, however, his administration went too far in the opposite direction: Appeasement. The consequences are all too evident today.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1091766

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Hezbollah’s Real Message From Southern Lebanon

By Diana Moukalled

28 April 2017

It is hard not to have a sarcastic smile on one’s face upon viewing pictures showing Hezbollah fighters covered with leaves, apparently intended to give the media the impression they are ready militarily.

They look directly into the camera lenses, taking combat positions and satisfying photographers’ desires. This occurred during an impromptu media tour carried out by Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and along the border. The recent tour aimed to promote the idea that Israel is forced into a state of self-defense due to the “resistance.”

It seemed to be a replica of similar media tours carried out by the party in the 1990s. But what is strange is that Hezbollah seemed to be trying in vain to sidestep the tremendous changes that have taken place in Lebanon and regionally.

The main takeaway from the tour is that Hezbollah seemingly does not respect international resolutions over weaponry south of the Litani River; rather, the party is saying that it owns the area and will use it as it pleases.

This is exactly what prompted Prime Minister Saad Hariri to respond with his own visit to southern Lebanon, to Naqoura, where he confirmed that the government’s position is not in line with Hezbollah’s.

There is no doubt that Hariri’s move carried several messages, primarily that the international community is in a pivotal moment regarding Lebanon and the test it is passing through to improve its Gulf, Arab and international relations.

The statement by right-wing Israeli Minister Naftali Bennett that “Lebanon is Hezbollah and Hezbollah is Lebanon” summarizes Israel’s growing desire to conflate the two.

It is clear that Hezbollah is trying to seize an opportunity at this important time for the region, especially in light of the changing US position on Syria, Iraq and Iran. And this comes after talks of imposing a package of new sanctions on the party.

Hezbollah seeks to emphasize that such measures would not discourage it from continuing what it is doing, and that it is capable of playing any card to defend itself, including a possible altercation with Israel.

However the balance of power in such a confrontation would likely not favor Hezbollah, which is already fighting in Syria. Returning to fight in Lebanon would be no easy matter.

Hezbollah aimed to demonstrate in its media tour that it is still holding on to its decision-making at various levels, despite the opposition of Lebanese political parties led by the prime minister.

Hezbollah wants to say that it is everything in this country, and by taking journalists to the border, it is as though it is saying to the world that sparing Lebanon from the scourge of war, such as that in Syria, is unrealistic.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1091761

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Saudi Csos Rush To Apply For Licenses

By Samar Fatany

April 29, 2017

After many years of continuous demands for the establishment of Saudi non-governmental organizations, Saudi citizens are finally celebrating the government decision to allow civil society organizations. The CSO Law was issued in December 2015 and entered into force on March 17, 2016.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Development also announced it will provide training for youths to prepare them for work in non-governmental organizations, which will be monitored to guarantee their transparency and accountability and provided with the necessary support to achieve the goals of the Saudi Vision 2030 reform plan.

Social Development Ministry Undersecretary Abdullah Al-Sadhan said, “Under the new rules, charity societies and foundations will have their own council and a fund to support organizations will be set up to help develop their capacities and guarantee their sustainability.”  The new rules also allow companies, institutions and banks to establish charity societies.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Development has also announced plans to provide 60,000 jobs for local youths in non-governmental organizations across the Kingdom.

Many remain optimistic and are eager to promote civil society and see it as a positive step toward sustainable development and meaningful progress. They are encouraged by the flexible laws and regulations governing non-governmental organizations with licenses granted within 60 days, the minimum number of association founders reduced to ten, and a wider scope of permissible activities that associations and foundations can undertake.

The implementation of Saudi Vision 2030 includes plans to empower civil society and allow citizens to participate in nation building. According to Dr. Hammad Ali Al-Hammadi, Assistant Undersecretary for Social Development, “The governance standards for private entities are drafted and developed as per the Private Societies and Institutions System, by law and in accordance with the best international practices.” He explained that “the ministry will have those working in social development centers trained on the concepts and tools of governance and will carry out inspections to make sure private societies are committed to implementing the standards of governance.” This is a step in the right direction as not many have the experience and will need professional guidance and support to ensure that they are capable of providing better and meaningful social services.

Hopefully, the initiative will improve the sector and increase opportunities to identify shortcomings and lead to the sustainable success of private societies.

The move is part of the National Transformation Program (NTP) 2020 to promote the contribution of civil society and build a knowledge-based society.

Today, civil society has an opportunity to address problems and offer innovative solutions to the challenges facing our nation. Government cannot do the job alone. Civil society organizations can play a key role in supporting government initiatives toward reforms as well as voicing public concerns.

The country needs a more responsible civil society that can communicate public concerns to the government, monitor policy and program implementation and encourage participation of stakeholders at the community level. The development of civil society and non-governmental organizations can support government initiatives to implement the National Transformation Plan.

Globally, civil society groups have changed in their role  from a monitor and sometimes corrector of state actions to an active participant in governance. But these groups face a variety of problems as they step up their efforts to be full participants in governance. For example, political analysts note: “CSOs are traditionally concerned with power relations between the state and its citizens. More than ever, they should be responding to informal sources of power that may impact poverty reduction equally.”

“It is critical to recognize and encourage the role of civil society organizations in the promotion of good governance in emerging nations.” This is according to a policy brief developed jointly by the United Nations University and the East-West Center through a recent conference held in Honolulu.

Unfortunately, in the aftermath of Sept. 11 and the global war on terrorism, many civil society organizations were restrained. Political analysts assert that civil society organizations, if allowed to flourish and participate, can play a crucial role in helping governments reach the goal of equitable, sustainable and open societies in which all citizens share equally in both benefits and burdens.

Today, Saudi citizens are eager to play an effective role through legal and formal channels to participate in the decision making process. The continued absence of civic activism in the past was detrimental to progress and has resulted in a lack of a national identity among many educated professionals. However, with the participation of citizens addressing their needs, we can promote a sense of belonging and national pride

The expectations of activists, professionals and community leaders are high. They welcome the opportunity to confront current challenges that are slowing progress in the Kingdom. Their contributions can be more effective and have a greater impact on the welfare and progress of our society.

Source: saudigazette.com.sa/opinion/saudi-csos-rush-apply-licenses/

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Will Getting Rid Of Expat Workers Eliminate Saudi Unemployment?

By Ehsan Buhulaiga

April 29, 2017

Developing a job for every unemployed citizen is difficult. Although the number of job seekers is small in comparison to the number of expatriate workers, it would be harder still if the unemployment rate among Saudis were to increase to over 12 percent, especially since the number of Saudi job seekers is no more than 10 percent of the number of expatriates in the Kingdom. In terms of qualifications, the majority of unemployed Saudis are university graduates, 59 percent to be exact.

This brings us back to the question: How can we link job seekers to the job market? How can we employ unemployed Saudi men and women? The method adopted since the quinquennial plans started paying attention to unemployment involves replacing expatriates with Saudis. This method has been selected since the economy is unable to create enough jobs to employ unemployed Saudis.

The “replacement” method has been in vogue for almost 20 years now. It seems to be a reasonable solution but it has not been properly implemented. It is based on a gradual increase in the number of Saudis employed in the labor market. How can we properly control unemployment? We need to ask whether replacement is the proper way forward?

Since the announcement of Saudi Vision 2030, it has become more urgent to find a solution to this problem and offer Saudi citizens suitable jobs. How can we make our economy, particularly the private sector, employ more citizens? Actually, the private sector is at a crossroads in terms of employment. Employing more expatriates is now difficult as a result of the increase in fees after the Fiscal Balance Program 2020 that imposes increasing fees on expatriate workers and their dependents. Employing Saudi men and women is now less costly.

There is, however, still a gap that needs to be bridged. We need certain expatriates, i.e., experts and professionals. Instead of recruiting recently graduated expatriate employees who have no real experience, we should recruit the ones who have real experience and are professionals.

This is what our economy is lacking. We need those who can train our youth and develop our human capital. We should offer special incentives to recruit experts. Perhaps, that will achieve the diversification that our national economy needs.

Source: saudigazette.com.sa/opinion/local-viewpoint/will-getting-rid-expat-workers-eliminate-saudi-unemployment/

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Why An Extension Of The OPEC Deal Matters

By Cornelia Meyer

28 April 2017

May 25 is getting closer. It is the date when the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) will decide on whether it wants to adhere to the current production cuts agreed last November. Then OPEC agreed to reduce production by 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd).

Non-OPEC countries, led by Russia, agreed to take a further 600,000 bpd out of production. OPEC compliance was well above 90 percent owing to over-compliance by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and the persuasive powers of OPEC Secretary-General Mohammed Sanusi Barkindo.

Since the deal, the oil price has hovered in the $50 to $55 range with spikes above and below. OPEC is slowly achieving its goal. But the production cuts failed to bite as speedily as was hoped for.

The dark horse was the US shale oil sector: No one knew how quickly shale production would be ramping up once prices were on the rise again.

Shale oil is relatively expensive to produce but the sector had become leaner, meaner and more efficient.

Ownership structures had also changed: Many of the highly leveraged small shale producers went out of business when the oil price fell below $40.

Their properties were snapped up by established players such as Exxon and Chevron. Indeed, around one out of five barrels currently lifted by Exxon is shale oil.

The post-OPEC deal price scenario also brought more capital into the US shale oil space: During the first quarter of 2017 private equity funds alone invested $19.6 billion in the sector.

To Extend Or Not To Extend?

Earlier this month, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih confirmed that an extension of the agreement was likely.

The precise shape of any agreement — especially the non-OPEC participation — is still unknown. There has, however, been a series of behind-the-scenes negotiations among OPEC members as well as with their non-OPEC counterparts.

It is true that OPEC, the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) predict that oil markets will come into balance within the second or third quarter of 2017 and that the historically high oil inventories will then be reduced — gradually and over time.

It is also true that the IEA predicts global oil demand to grow by 1.3 million bpd in 2017, as opposed to a projected supply increase by a meager 485,000 bpd. This explains why several analysts foresee an oil-price hike to $65 by the end of the year.

You could argue that the markets would eventually reach a balance with or without an extension of the OPEC deal. However, markets are reactive by nature, prone to psychological influences and largely events-driven. This is why the deal matters.

A failure to renew the deal might send the oil price in a tailspin. OPEC ministers and oil producers are all too aware of these market idiosyncrasies, which is why Barkindo spends time communicating with and trying to understand Wall Street.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1091756

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