Age Islam Edit Bureau
29 April 2017
Iraqi Is A Daesh Suspect In Mosul
By Ulf Laessing
Dreams Of Abandoned Children
By Aisha Abbas Natto
100 Days Feels Like Eternity
By Yossi Mekelberg
Part Of The Story: Turkish Diaspora And Politics
By Sinem Cengiz
Problem With Europe
By Taha Akyol
The Axis Of Evil To Appeasement
By Dr. Manuel Almeida
Real Message From Southern Lebanon
By Diana Moukalled
Csos Rush To Apply For Licenses
By Samar Fatany
Getting Rid Of Expat Workers Eliminate Saudi Unemployment?
By Ehsan Buhulaiga
An Extension Of The OPEC Deal Matters
By Cornelia Meyer
By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
April 27, 2017
Thousands of men, many innocent, are
interrogated and detained at camps on suspicion of having links with the
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
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
Separate security clearance is needed to reclaim
money stuck in a bank, or salaries for public servants held up by the
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
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?”
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
Dr. Manuel Almeida
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.