New Age Islam Edit Bureau
29 July 2017
Nawaz Sharif's Exit Opens Door to
Uncertainty in Pakistan
By Waqar Mustafa
Attempting To Understand the
Phenomenon of Violence
By Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran
What Will Baghdad’s Role Be After
Liberation of Mosul?
By Huda Al-Husseini
Why Abductions, Murders Have Returned
By Adnan Hussein
The Energy Factor in the GCC Crisis
By Susan Kurdli
The Good, the Bad and The Ugly Of The
By Sinem Cengiz
Netanyahu Risks Rift with World Jewry
to Stay In Power
By Yossi Mekelberg
Saudi Women in Sports Percolating To
the Policy Surface
By Fatimah S. Baeshen
Why America Is Weaker Than Ever
By Fareed Zakaria
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
Nawaz Sharif's Exit Opens Door to
Uncertainty In Pakistan
July 28, 2017
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has
welcomed the court verdict against Sharif hoping that it will help in deterring
corruption in high offices.
Uncertainty is the new certainty in
Pakistan where the country's top court has shown Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif
the door for not being 'honest'.
"PM failed to disclose his
un-withdrawn receivables from Capital FZE, UAE in 2013 nomination papers,"
reads the Supreme Court order that left a litany of graft charges against the
Sharif family for accountability courts to probe and judge in six months. Being
honest is a prerequisite for eligibility to being a member of the parliament,
as enshrined in Article 62 of the Constitution.
Sharif's party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz
says it will utilise all legal and constitutional means to contest the verdict
that has brought his third term in power to a brusque end, less than a year
before the scheduled general elections which would have seen him become the
first Pakistani prime minister to complete a full five-year term. The ruling
party that along with coalition partners commands a 209-seat majority in the
342-seat house says it will ride out the crisis and complete its term in power.
With the PML-N's coalition partners standing by it, the country's major
opposition party - Pakistan Peoples Party - also wants Sharif's party to rule
the country until the middle of next year.
The big challenge for the PML-N party would
be to maintain unity. In 1999 when Sharif was ousted in a military coup by
General Pervez Musharraf, his party had lost several leaders to a new party
cobbled together by the military ruler. Also, nobody is sure about Imran Khan's
Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf party that has spearheaded the anti-graft campaign
against the Sharif family following the Panama leaks last year alleging that they
were among numerous foreign leaders who had hidden assets in overseas holdings
and that a set of luxury apartments in London long occupied by Sharif's
children had murky ownership and source of funds. The PTI supporters have held
spontaneous celebrations, dancing and chanting and distributing sweets. Khan
has called for a public rally on Sunday, in a press conference after the
"Our struggle proves that mighty
people in our country can also be held accountable now. Until and unless these
powerful people of the country are held accountable there is no future of
Pakistan." But as has been indicated by one of its leaders Babar Awan
recently, the party won't rest at the prime minister's exit but would seek snap
polls. If this demand gathers steam, the country may be in for a repeat of the
2014 sit-in in the country's capital and elsewhere. In 2014, Khan led thousands
of his protesters to stage a protest sit-in in the capital against alleged
rigging in the elections that had brought Sharif to power. PPP had sided with
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has
welcomed the court verdict against Sharif hoping that it will help in deterring
corruption in high offices. According to him his party supports
"accountability across the board". And this point may bring his party
close to Sharif's. Smelling some sort of undefined conspiracy against their
leader, Sharif's party has also been crying for holding all to account. The
country's courts are hearing some other cases as well such as the one against Imran
Khan that may as well lead to his disqualification. Many commentators say the
country may well see several heads roll in the likely anti-graft drive.
Interesting times ahead!
The Supreme Court decision and the
political chaos may harm Sharif party's attempts to revive the economy after it
avoided a balance-of-payments crisis in 2013 by turning to a $6.6 billion
International Monetary Fund loan programme. The economy grew at a rate just
above 5 per cent in the last fiscal year and China is financing more than $50
billion in the country's infrastructure projects across the nation. The
uncertainty is telling heavily upon the country's economy and the stock market
is in a bearish mood. Though the military will take care of the mega projects
with China, investors in Pakistan may keep their money away until things go
Attempting To Understand The Phenomenon
28 July 2017
There are several discussions about climate
threats and the scarcity of food and dozens of prophecies about the dry land
and the decrease of water. However the worst threat is violence with all its
forms, the terrorist, the criminal and the political.
A society’s luxury is first measured by its
security and then all other standards follow. Although the world has witnessed
major violence in East Asia, mass massacres in Africa, civil wars in the Middle
East and massacres in Europe – of which most of them were racial or political –
the bloody terrorism of radical movements since the late 20th century is the
worst considering how insidious it is and how it operates and renews its plans.
Terrorism is not criminal violence that can
be limited and curbed but it is ideological violence that does not have a
specific worldly and materialistic aim. Killing becomes a target and suicide
becomes a mean even if slogans of an Islamic state are raised or if imagined
models of a caliphate or a pious society that rules by sharia are established.
The issue is not about ordinary analysis of
violence or social, psychological and political justifications but it’s about
the relation between violence and the idea of violence and between the
terrorist and what he finds sacred based on the origin of sacrifice.
This is what distinguished the work of René
Girard in his book Violence and the Sacred which is an anthropological research
that explores the origins of violence and sacrifice by looking into relations
between the sacrifice, the sacred and violence.
Tunisian researcher Manoubi Ghabbech has an
important work about “sacred violence” in which he considered “the sacrifice,
the bloody offering, as the basic model of sacred violence.” He wrote: “The old
anthropological phenomenon that’s linked to simple collective awareness (old
pagans, bioethics and totemism) later transformed into a socio-political
phenomenon in complicated and developed societies which did not lose the
phenomenon of sanctification.”
He cited French Philosopher Roger Caillois’
book Man and the Sacred and quoted the statement which stipulates that “sacred
violence is the violence which is legitimized based on a religious, legendary
or ideological references. Sacred violence does not only take its forms from
founding texts but it’s also embodied in the most brutal scenes in wars and
during torture that’s practiced against the followers of another religion or
doctrine or sect.”
The thesis, which thoroughly discusses the
relations between violence, society and terrorism, is by Philosophy instructor
Paul Dumouchel. The book’s title is “The Barren Sacrifice an Essay on Political
Violence” and he dedicated it to Girard. The influence of his teacher was seen
in the book in which he analyzed the meaning of violence for cannibals. He also
touches on Alain Corbin’s book The Village of the Cannibals in which he
analyzes an incident of collective violence that happened in Dordogne during
the 1870 war.
He then addressed an important concept
developed by Hannah Arendt and which is the “banality of evil” which he said
“expresses surprise before what we can call (not sanctifying the executioner)
as the gravity and ugliness of the crime do not grant the perpetrator any
greatness and do not surround him with a sacred aura or grant him an unordinary
evil feature that suits his actions in the face of the denial which his
Banality Of Evil
The banality of evil brings the executioner
closer to the level of the unknown victims who have no faces as they are just
countless unknown people whom nothing indicated the horrible fate they will
Dumouchel shifted major concepts about
violence since the days of Arendt and up until Girard’s but he magnificently
and uniquely defined violence as: “Violence can quickly integrate with disputes
and competitions that move individuals. This is why it repels as much as it
attracts and worries as much as it charms. However, it approaches active
individuals who have no commitment to get involved in it.”
All these concepts are theories that
attempt to understand the roots of violence through anthropological analysis of
cultures. Violence is part of humanity and it’s a basic in the latter’s major
transformations and historical turns. Therefore, terrorism, as the most
prominent manifestation of the phenomenon of violence, puts the future of
relations between states, cultures and people at stake.
Even affairs related to communication,
tourism and education will confront unprecedented challenges. Travelling in the
near future may be difficult. This enhances the hypothesis of conflicts instead
of communications and agreements. The phase after terrorism will not be like
the time before it.
States may succeed in targeting and
eliminating terrorist entities but eradicating violent tendencies requires
civilized formulas and ideological transformations that most countries, except
certain western ones, are incapable of. It is countries’ duties to monopolize
violence and prevent individuals from evaluating how good violence is. Only the
state has the right to describe it.
All violent tendencies emerge due to a
defect in the social contract and due to not organizing differences among
people in favor of the less fortunate in society as John Rawls puts it. All
this may postpone the eruption of major conflicts and limit the flames of
terrorism’s raging fire.
What Will Baghdad’s Role Be After
Liberation Of Mosul?
By Huda al-Husseini
Mosul’s battle may be the worst of this
century. Mosul did not look like a liberated city as it was severely destroyed
and more than 1 million people have been displaced. ISIS’ defeat is certain but
the repercussions of the fighting are not over yet. So what will happen after
all this destruction which was followed with “liberation celebrations?”
Challenges are still on as first there is
the new role of Shiite militias and Sunni Iraqis do not trust one another or
Baghdad and are incapable of restoring basic services. The massive destruction
of the city during ISIS’ brutal occupation since 2014 and the military attacks
which the alliance and Iraqi forces launched for months mean that restoring
basic services and infrastructure will not happen quickly.
The Iraqi government said its plan in this
phase is to rebuild Mosul and other “liberated” areas over the course of 10
years with $100 billion worth of funding that will come from different sources.
An independent American agency that was
established to rebuild Iraq during the American invasion monitored $119.52
billion between April 2003 and March 2008. The US provided $46 billion; Iraq
provided $50.33 billion while $15.89 billion came from international support.
Despite these huge sums of money, most of it evaporated.
Corruption And Theft
Projects were launched but they were either
not completed or sabotaged due to corruption and theft. According to several
reports, some ministries in Baghdad are now more corrupt than they were during
the past years. Many projects were halted and not completed because they were
not necessary and because locals did not participate in designing them or
More importantly, no serious efforts were
made to create harmony between the different local sectarian groups or between
tribes, who are mostly Sunnis who felt they were more distant from the central
government led by the Shiites in Baghdad.
Unfortunately, nothing shows that the new
reconstruction efforts will be any different. The current situation is more
challenging as the government will have less money to use. The low oil prices
and the increased bureaucracy left the central government in Baghdad with
scarce resources. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund did not
provide enough to help.
Last year, the IMF gave an urgent loan
worth $5.3 billion. At the time it was a huge contribution but it does not do
Violence And Instability
Violence and instability will not come to
an end soon without reconciliation between the different sectarian groups that
are fighting against each other in Mosul – which fought together even when ISIS
ruled – and between Sunnis. Many Iraqi Sunnis and Kurds do not believe there is
any future while Baghdad’s government is in place.
Unless there is radical change, the areas
which were liberated from ISIS will be used to recruit extremist organizations
or groups in the future. If this is not resolved, it will simply keep
happening. A Sunni official in Fallujah which expelled ISIS last summer said
“ISIS did not come from the moon and did not grow out of earth. A part of our
people joined ISIS because of corruption, injustice and the culture of hatred.”
What happened in Anbar, where Fallujah is,
provides a glimpse of some of the problems which Mosul may confront. Ramadi,
the governorate’s capital, is destroyed and it needs $10 billion but the
central government has not provided any help to rebuild it. This is also the
case of Sinjar, north of Iraq, as it needs $70 million to fix what ISIS
destroyed but the Iraqi government only provided $45,000 to remove rubble from
Cultural And Ethnic Diversity
Mosul was an ethnically mixed city with
cultural diversity. Now, however, the Sunni majority must deal with the problem
of those sympathizing with ISIS from among it. The government has not proposed
a decisive plan to prevent new massacres that Sunnis may commit or to address
Shiite militias who aim to achieve their own aims that oppose the Sunnis.
There’s another worrying matter which a report
by the New York Times revealed on July 15 about Iran’s domination over Iraq.
The report detailed Iran’s increased influence especially on the strategic
level and said that Iran’s major aim is to prevent Iraq from threatening it in
the future like what happened when it confronted it during the Iraqi-Iranian
war in the 1980’s, adding that Iran is also looking forward to use Iraqi
territories to establish a Shiite route from Iran and that passes through Iraq
and Syria and all the way to Lebanon.
It also said that the general impression is
that Iran succeeded in turning Iraq into a “statelet” that revolves around its
orbit at the expense of the US. Nouri al-Maliki who aspired to become prime
minister again – perhaps to complete the strife he incited – said in Moscow on
Monday that he’s interested in Russian presence in Iraq so it balances with
other foreign powers. Of course Maliki was not referring to Iran which is
Anyway, the report brought up critical
points such as the discontent of the Arab state of Iraq from the Persian state
of Iran. The report also addressed the Iranian religious system’s weak
prospects of solidifying in Iraq although militiamen affiliated with Iran tried
to persuade students in universities to embrace the Iranian doctrine.
It also noted that the current Iraqi
command strongly desires to achieve a more efficient balance between Washington
and Tehran to achieve the sovereign independence of Iraq. We can conclude from
the report that America’s concern and participation are vital to contain Iran’s
ambitions in Iraq – that is if it’s not too late.
There are also the Kurds and their stance
from the central government in Baghdad as they’re getting ready to hold a
referendum to become independent in the end of September. It’s expected for the
majority to vote in favour of independence. The divisions of Kurdish policies
these days and the voters’ pragmatism may make it difficult to achieve any
separation quickly. Moreover, countries neighbouring Iraq’s Kurdistan will
still have an influential voice in how things develop.
There’s the disputed Kirkuk which is
ethnically mixed and which is rich in oil. Kirkuk is also reviewing its
political options especially that some communities do not want to be part of
the Kurdish region while others seek to separate from the Iraqi state.
Some Sunni-majority governorates are
attempting to manage their affairs on their own. Although it’s not clear what
will happen in Mosul in the Nineveh governorate, the Anbar governorate which
suffered under al-Qaeda and ISIS is not waiting for Baghdad or non-governmental
international organizations to reopen schools and reform infrastructure.
People there are doing so themselves. It
seems that being locally enabled and supervising peace and security were the
results of the past years of conflicts and of the government’s weakness in
Sunni areas. Sunni leaders have not come up with a formula for political unity.
Therefore, locally enabling people,
decentralization, providing services and slowness while establishing trust
among Sunni elites are all part of Iraq’s bigger picture. The future partially
depends on whether the Sunnis can become a decisive or a destabilizing factor.
People in Mosul must not wait for help from
Baghdad because it may never come. Perhaps what’s best is to take matters into
their own hands and pave way for reconciliation because murder and counter
murder will only resume destroying Mosul, and this is something that
neighboring countries hope for.
Why Abductions, Murders Have Returned To
Abductions and murder returned to Baghdad
and other major cities in Iraq and some small towns when the operation to
liberate Mosul was launched. They increased as the battles escalated and are
now out of control after Mosul was liberated. Is this a coincidence?
Abductions and murder have become a daily
phenomenon like the situation was years ago. This time, the identity of those
kidnapped and killed are various. This means these are not ordinary crimes as
it seems the aim is to shake security and obstruct the restoration of stability
required for political, economic and social development in the post-ISIS phase.
These crimes would not have happened if the
state and its law-enforcement institutions hadn’t been lenient in imposing the
law, beginning with the traffic law, drug law and others. This would not have
happened if it hadn’t been for indifference in terms of prohibiting arms,
establishing non-state armed groups and imposing power over the armed groups
which are said to be under the state’s control.
None of this would have happened if
administrative and financial corruption had been fought and if corrupt men
empowered by state institutions and security forces had been pursued.
The Most Corrupt Men
We will appreciate it if no one repeats the
number of cases which the integrity courts have ruled into as all these cases
put together are nothing compared to the cases which no one has looked into.
The most corrupt men have not been touched and it’s actually prohibited to come
near them or to address the dangerous corruption they’re involved in.
Violating the law, defying the state and
escaping punishment are happening when there are around 1 million personnel in
the institutions, i.e. police, operations’ command and national security and
intelligence apparatuses, that are tasked with maintaining security and order.
What are they doing if they cannot put an end to these abductions and murder or
at least gradually limit them?
More importantly, why are these apparatuses
present if they do not carry out the least of their duties? Do we need all
these apparatuses which cost a lot of money when security and order are not
The phenomenon of kidnappings and murder
has crossed the red line. The prime minister and the relevant security
institutions are urgently requested to seriously look into this and rectify it
and they must restructure these apparatuses and change their commanders.
Maintaining internal security is as
important as fighting terrorism. Terrorism will be strengthened if internal
The Energy Factor In The GCC Crisis
As top diplomats from various countries
flock to the Gulf in an attempt to solve the GCC rift, major energy companies
continue to vie for competitive projects in the oil and gas fields in the
region. The latest of these projects is the development of the South Pars/North
Field, the world's largest natural gas field, which is owned by both Iran and
Qatar. This field plays a central yet often underrated role in the development
of foreign and national policies in both Qatar and Iran. In light of this, any
attempt for isolation or pressure on either country to alter select policies is
futile insofar as it disregards this fact.
As several experts have previously noted,
the tension arose briefly after the Riyadh Summit, when US President Donald
Trump assured Saudi Arabia of his commitment to the region in the face of the
"Iranian threat". The US' hope of forging an impenetrable GCC shield
against Iran fails to appreciate the centrality of the energy question and
exhibits a narrow sightedness based on the pursuit of self-interest. It is,
therefore, predestined to fail.
Similarly, the ensuing Saudi-led blockade
against Qatar is destined to eventually subside and give way to normalised
relations in spite of the current tension. As a sign, perhaps, that energy
trumps political antagonism, it is noteworthy that shortly after the rift,
Qatar announced it would not disrupt liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports to the
United Arab Emirates (UAE), which runs through the Dolphin pipeline.
The UAE receives about two billion cubic
feet on a daily basis from Qatar. Egypt, similarly, will continue receiving
Qatari LNG shipments which it secured till the end of 2017. Qatar's LNG ships
continue to make their way unhindered to Asia through the Hormuz Strait and to
Europe through the Suez Canal.
Qatar And The LNG 'Lifeline'
On the Qatari side of the field, its
discovery in 1971, which coincided with the state's year of independence, has
been crucial for state building and sovereignty recognition. It is no wonder,
then, that in addition to being the single most important contributor to the
country's GDP, natural gas has also indirectly driven many foreign policy
choices for the small state even where monetary returns are not directly
involved. This includes foreign aid, mediation and education initiatives, to
name but a few.
Qatar's strategy towards its neighbours up
until the early 1990s was hinged primarily on security provision and following
Saudi Arabia's lead in terms of foreign policy. Concrete changes started in the
early 1990s in Qatar's relations with other countries in the region, including
improved relations with Iran and stronger ties with the United States at the expense
of relations with Saudi Arabia, which took a blow following border and gas sale
disputes. The fact that Qatar shares the largest non-associated natural gas
field with Iran has influenced its relation with the latter since the 1980s. In
order to maintain cordial relations aimed at stabilising natural gas supplies,
Qatar has always adopted a more sensitive diplomatic approach to Iran.
In 1996, Qatar sought to export its natural
gas to neighbouring GCC countries. However, the project faced numerous obstacles
pertaining to pricing, transit rights and border disputes. This cemented the
view that Qatar should look beyond its neighbourhood for export markets,
especially as prices were more lucrative on the international market. As a
result, the sale of natural gas to key international players such as the UK,
China, India and Japan has inexorably linked customers' energy security to the
stability of Qatar.
Moreover, Qatar's energy policy is closely
linked to its investment policy as the national sovereign wealth fund, the
Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), recycles oil and gas revenue by investing
heavily in Europe and North America. Therefore, the sale of natural gas is both
a means to, and objective of, Qatar's international relations.
The Importance Of Gas In Iranian
The northern side of the gas field
belonging to Iran was discovered in 1990, but gas production was delayed until
the early 2000s because of a combination of geological and political problems.
Although Iran's economy is more diverse, petroleum still accounts for 80
percent of its exports. The oil and gas resources are also crucial for powering
an ambitious industrial sector, as well as providing electricity and heating
needs for a population estimated at around 80 million.
However, a number of challenges face the
energy sector. Oil and gas production and export have been hampered by
sanctions dating as far back as 1979. Additionally, the country has been cut
off from global technological advances usually brought in by multinational
companies and corruption and bureaucracy plague the system. The energy sector
is in dire need of foreign investment that would revamp its infrastructure and
increase oil and gas production efficiency.
This year Total signed a 20-year contract
with the National Iranian Oil Company using to develop phase 11 of South Pars.
The agreement benefits Iran in a number of
ways as it creates jobs, brings in financing as well as technological know-how,
and, perhaps most significantly, it ushers the way for other major companies to
invest in Iran.
Political internal affairs in Iran are less
stable compared with Qatar as conservative and moderate forces are involved in
a tug of war over influence and popular approval. Although the current
president, Hassan Rouhani, won a landslide victory for a second term, he lacks
the full-hearted support of the country's conservative establishment led by the
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Therefore, for Iran, the development and
production of natural gas not only satisfies growing national energy needs but
also helps the current administration to maintain political support and fulfil
ambitious economic promises which include overall growth through job creation
and foreign investment attraction. It also helps prove that the Nuclear Agreement
of 2015 engineered by the Rouhani administration is starting to bear fruit.
The Geopolitics Of Natural Gas
Both being aware of the growing
significance of the shared field, Iran and Qatar recently announced further
development plans. Following the signing of its deal with Total, Iran announced
that its production capacity could exceed Qatar's - although most of it would
go to satisfy domestic needs.
A few months after signing the agreement,
the self-imposed moratorium on further development of the North Field was
lifted in April 2017. Although officials deny that these events are linked, it
is necessary for Qatar to increase production to maintain market share in an
increasingly competitive market.
The LNG market is becoming a more
integrated global market in which prices are set by market factors, rather than
geopolitical interests. The change was ushered in by the emergence of new
players - as well as the increase in global supply, which ensures that LNG's
price and quantity are not controlled by a monopoly. In addition to increased
production by Iran, Australia is expected to become a top gas exporter, the US
entered the export market, and Russia is ambitious to take the first place held
Under these new conditions, Qatar is likely
to seek more than ever to maintain leadership of the market and will,
therefore, continue to foster relations that support energy development, even
if it comes at the expense of regional relations.
The centrality of the energy question for
both Iran and Qatar means that both countries will continue to put forward
policies that favour the development of said resources, even if it places them
at odds with regional and global players. Therefore, any such attempts to
isolate either country would not only be in vain, but also threaten the
stability of a fragile region and endanger international energy security.
The Good, The Bad And The Ugly Of The
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
recently embarked on a two-day trip to the Gulf, in the latest international
effort to help resolve the diplomatic crisis between Qatar and the Anti-Terror
Quartet (ATQ), comprising Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt. The trip
included Saudi Arabia and Qatar, both actors in the crisis, as well as Kuwait,
the main mediator, whose role is difficult and should be appreciated.
There were two aspects to Erdogan’s Gulf
tour: Sanctions on Qatar, and the recent violence in Jerusalem following
Israeli restrictions on Al-Aqsa Mosque. The visit aimed to show Ankara’s
intention to keep balanced relations with Doha and Riyadh. Despite adopting a
pro-Qatar stance, Erdogan does not want to harm Turkey’s relations with Saudi
Arabia and the other Gulf countries, particularly as Ankara’s relations with
the West continue to deteriorate.
So the visit was not only
solution-oriented; it also aimed to strengthen political and economic ties with
the Gulf. Although the visit revealed that the crisis will not end anytime
soon, it aimed to reduce pressure on Turkey, which is caught between two fires.
That is why the first stop was Saudi Arabia, which Erdogan referred to as “the
region’s big and wise country.”
Ankara has learned a great deal from the
Arab Spring and its aftermath. As a power seeking a greater regional role,
Turkey cannot turn its back on regional developments. But the lessons learned
over the past few years has made Ankara more aware of its limits, capabilities and
interests, and pushed it to avoid becoming trapped by regional crises.
That is mainly why Turkey is walking a fine
line between actors in the Gulf dispute, adopting a balanced and pragmatic
stance along with Kuwait. Ankara’s policy of non-escalation in the crisis
serves Turkey’s long-term interests.
Another encouraging indication is that the
ATQ no longer insists that Qatar comply with a list of 13 demands it tabled
last month. The demands have been whittled down to six that were agreed by the
disputing parties in 2014. The softening of the tone and the role of the
mediators is “the good” of the crisis.
As in every dispute, there are winners and
losers. The real victims of this one are not only the countries involved, but
also those in the wider Middle East and the Muslim world. The worst diplomatic
crisis between powerful Arab states in decades hurts Arab and Muslim unity,
which is needed more than ever amid violence in Jerusalem and other problems in
Unfortunately, for several years the Arab and
Muslim worlds have failed to form successful political or economic blocs. One
that succeeded, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), faces the risk of breaking
up due to the Qatar crisis. This is “the bad,” while “the ugly” is the role of
external and internal actors that benefit from prolonging it.
Turkey will do whatever it takes to resolve
it. It may even withdraw its troops from Qatar or tone down support for the
Muslim Brotherhood. But Erdogan said neither the Saudi king, crown prince nor
Kuwait’s emir raised the issue of Turkey’s military base in Qatar during his
visit. The coming days will reveal what was discussed in private. Western media
readings of Erdogan’s visit as a failure are unfair; diplomatic talks do not
bear fruit in a day.
The Gulf Crisis: Why Is India Still
By Dr. Naser Al-Tamimi
The decision by four Arab states — Saudi
Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt — to cut ties with Qatar may have
ramifications on India. For now, these will be mostly concentrated in the
diplomatic sphere; however, pressure on New Delhi to pick sides is likely to
grow as the Gulf crisis deepens.
So far, India has been working hard to
maintain a neutral stance over the Gulf crisis to avoid any political and
economic risks and ensure the well-being of Indian citizens working or living
in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states. Certainly, India is watching the
situation very closely as it has even more reason to be concerned about the
developments in the Gulf region.
The Gulf states are among the most vital
economic zones for India. Indeed, the GCC bloc was India’s largest trading
partner in 2016. At the country level, the UAE and Saudi Arabia were among New
Delhi’s Top 5 trading partners.
The GCC is also the second top destination,
after the US, for Indian products. The six Arab Gulf countries — Bahrain,
Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE — collectively received about 86
percent of total Indian goods destined for the Middle East, or nearly 16
percent (almost $41 billion) of India’s total exports in 2016, according to
International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Thus, if the crisis escalates amid
continued decline in oil prices and low economic growth, this may adversely
affect the demand for Indian goods.
Energy is another critical area of growing
ties between India and the GCC states. India is the third largest oil consumer
in the world (after the US and China), as well as the third largest oil
importer, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
At present, a third of India’s crude
imports, and about two-thirds of liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports, comes
from the GCC. In 2016, Saudi Arabia was the largest oil supplier, providing
India with almost 19 percent of its crude needs. Qatar was the top exporter of
LNG, with its share hitting almost 62 percent of India’s total LNG imports last
Looking forward, India’s oil imports are
expected to increase by more than 1 million barrels per day (bpd) over the next
decade. With expectations of rising demand, a group of Indian state petroleum
firms plan to build a 60 million tons/year (1.2 million bpd) mega-refinery
comprising three 20 million tons a year (400,000 bpd) crude distillation units
(CDUs). As a result, the Indian government is encouraging Saudi Aramco and
other GCC companies to buy stakes in these projects.
Importantly, India is at risk of growing
environmental problems. Many of its major cities have heavily polluted air and
rivers, raising questions about the sustainability of the economy’s rapid
growth. Thus, New Delhi is looking to increase the share of natural gas in the
country’s energy mix.
In this regard, India’s natural gas import
needs are projected to more than double over the next decade. Its imports are expected
to increase from 26.8 billion cubic meters (bcm) in 2016 to around 57 bcm by
2026, mainly in the form of LNG, as gas pipelines from Iran or Turkmenistan
became distant dream, according to BMI Research.
New Delhi is seeking Qatari investment in
its power plants in return for long-term LNG supply contracts commitment.
India’s Petronet already buys 8.5 million tons a year of LNG from Qatar under
three long-term contracts, which expire in 2028-2029.
Consequently, the stability of the Gulf
region is vital to India to ensure the flow of energy imports. Any escalation
in the Gulf could lead to higher energy prices, and subsequently increase the
financial burden on the Indian budget. To be sure, New Delhi’s energy imports
bill (excluding petrochemicals and fertilizers) hit more than $89 billion (36
percent from the GCC states) in 2016, although it has almost halved since the
decline in oil prices.
Meanwhile, there are around 4-5 million
people (650,000-700,000 in Qatar alone) of Indian origin working in the GCC
countries. These Indian workers in the GCC states send remittances every year
worth tens of billions of dollars, which are very important New Delhi’s public
A prolonged crisis or uncertainty could
increase insecurity, dampen economic sentiment and ultimately may lead to more
Indian layoffs and thus a decline in remittances.
India also ranked fifth in the list of the
largest investors in the GCC, with investments exceeding $2.5 billion,
representing more than 8 percent of total foreign investments in the GCC in
2016. Between 2010 and 2016, the GCC attracted $199 billion in foreign
investment, with India accounting for $21.1 billion or 11 percent of that,
ranking it third after the US and UAE, according to the Arab Investment &
Export Credit Guarantee Corporation.
Given India’s strategic interests and
growing ties with all GCC states, New Delhi has rightly taken a neutral
position over the Gulf diplomatic crisis, calling the concerned countries to
resolve it peacefully and through dialogue. Indeed, as there is not much to be
gained by getting too involved in the GCC dispute; it is logical to expect
India to maintain its present cautious and balanced approach.
Netanyahu Risks Rift with World Jewry to
Stay In Power
By Yossi Mekelberg
There is an old Jewish saying that goes,
“Ask two Jews, you’ll get three opinions.” Joking aside, it represents the
value of embracing debate, pluralism and, at times, even indecisiveness. And it
is a reflection of changes taking place from within the religion and outside
Nevertheless, Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu’s support of recently proposed policies regarding the
Conversion Law, and of halting a previous decision to dedicate an egalitarian
prayer area along the southern part of the Western Wall for the use of the
non-Orthodox, has infuriated world Jewry.
It is obvious to everyone concerned that
this has nothing to do with any sudden doctrinal revelation, and has been done
only to appease his religious coalition partners in government. In pursuing
these policies he risks not only alienating non-Orthodox Israelis, but also
many Jewish communities around the world on whom Israel has relied for support
since its inception.
From its earliest days, relations between
the nascent state of Israel and the Jewish Diaspora were complex. Both sides
had declared their eternal support while trying to avoid stepping on each
other’s toes. There has always been an expectation on the Israeli side that the
diaspora would support Israeli policies come rain or shine. In the early days
of the country, it also provided the financial support that ensured the
For Jews living outside Israel, the
self-proclaimed Jewish state gave them a new sense of identity and also a
potential safe haven from anti-Semitism. While Israel was absorbed in nation
and state building, especially in the face of adversity, differences of opinion
between the diaspora and the state were kept to a minimum.
But this has changed, gradually, since
1967, when a military victory turned into an occupation of other people’s land.
At the same time, and for reasons not unrelated to this event, the country
shifted to a more orthodox and messianic strand of Judaism, one to which most
Jews living around the world do not subscribe.
This has been exacerbated further following
the weakening of the more progressive, secular-minded Labour party and the
strengthening of the Likud and other religious parties. Moreover, the
fragmentation of the Israeli political system has given disproportionate power
to small parties, especially the ultra-orthodox ones, which have extracted
concessions that altered the character of the State of Israel very rapidly.
This trend is almost irreversible, considering the demographic changes in
Israeli society in favor of the orthodox communities.
Between concerns about the long occupation
of Palestinian land and religious legislation changing the face of Israel, many
Diaspora Jews began to question whether they are obliged to blindly support
Israel, or if they should take a more independent stance on Israeli policies.
And, if so, whether to air their differences in public.
This presents a challenging situation.
Israel counts on the support and lobbying power — especially in the US and main
European countries — of international Jewish communities to promote its
interests to governments and to the public. However, it pays only lip service
to understanding what is important to these communities. Furthermore, both
parties either refuse to acknowledge, or are in denial, that as time goes by
there is a distinct and growing difference between Jews living in Israel and
those outside it.
The most recent controversies over who has
the final say in recognizing conversion to Judaism and of creating a new area
for worship at the Western Wall for men and women to pray together, divide the
Jewish orthodoxy in Israel from the more progressive communities in the
diaspora. The latter were so infuriated by the proposed changes that they
lambasted the Israeli prime minister and his ultra-orthodox coalition parties
privately and in public. The Jewish Agency has canceled a gala dinner with
Netanyahu. The US Israeli lobby AIPAC, on which Israel relies heavily, sent a
senior delegation to warn Netanyahu of a severe rift between US Jewry and
Israel if both measures were to go ahead, because they see it as a deliberate
attempt to delegitimize their strand of Judaism. Accordingly, they are ready to
stage a robust fight, with the threat that they could considerably reduce their
support for Israel.
In public, Netanyahu consistently stresses
the importance of good relations between Israel and the Jewish Diaspora, and
the mutual benefits of these close relations. So it is astonishing that he
seems ready to jeopardize these relations for the sake of keeping his coalition
together. It would, at least, be understandable if one could believe that his
decisions are based on deep convictions, but in the case of Netanyahu,
opportunism rules supreme.
After close to seven decades of Israeli
independence, it may be time to reassess the relations between Israel, which is
home to around 40 percent of the world’s Jewry, and those Jews who live outside
Israel. It might be the case — especially considering the current small-minded,
right-wing coalition government in Israel — that Jews around the world should
develop a more independent approach, one which serves their views on their
religion, heritage and culture, rather than the one that has evolved inside
Saudi Women In Sports Percolating To The
By Fatimah S. Baeshen
In an interview with CNBC, Lina Al Maeena,
the founder of Jeddah United Sports Club (JU), inferred that through sports
Saudi women could break a lot of stereotypes.
Sports are also a mechanism for Saudi women
to change policy and advance our rights. This week, we, slowly but surely, gained
more ground. Just a few days ago, the Kingdom finally implemented a 2014 Royal
Decree mandating physical education for girls in public schools beginning in
the 2017-18 academic year. At the same time, the government has now made it
legal for women’s gyms to secure operations’ licenses from the state.
While the introduction of physical
education for girls in public school and the issuance of female gym licenses
are victories in their own right, they are also a lens for observing larger
social and cultural shifts that are expanding the role of women in the public
Saudi Arabia is known for its conservative
traditions. And, historically, conservatives, led by the clerical
establishment, have viewed women’s participation in sports as a mechanism for
undermining traditional gender roles and attacking the integrity of the family
unit. With respect to the former, conservative critiques focused on the
masculinisation of women; participation in athletics intruded into the public
space, a male-dominated area, and required women to adopt male patterns of
dress, such as pants. With regard to the latter, conservatives argued that
participation in athletics would encourage a woman to wilfully neglect her
domestic responsibilities or cause physical injury that would “compromise her
purity” (i.e., tear her hymen) making her “unsuitable” for marriage. For these
and other reasons, women were officially barred from participating in sports,
exercise, and physical education.
Unofficially, Saudi women have participated
in athletic activities for decades. At school, young girls play tag at recess
while adults frequent walking tracks (such as the one located behind Tahlia
Street in Jeddah or the tree-lined paths criss-crossing Prince Sultan
University in Riyadh). Women play basketball for private clubs (such as Jeddah
United). Saudis also set up women’s gyms, which circumnavigated legal
restrictions by registering as hair salons — yes, hair salons. Health and
fitness advocates also created platforms, like the Empowerment Hub, to inject a
more holistic approach to female well-being.
While the government may have turned a
blind eye to these activities conservatives did not.
In the 1990s, for example, the clerical
establishment pushed back hard against hair salon gyms sparking a conservative
grassroots public awareness campaign called “Let Her Get Fat,” an ironic title
given the Kingdom’s obesity pandemic. Absent a government crackdown, most of
these institutions and activities persisted despite attempts to sabotage them.
Fast forward to the 2010s and, I would
argue, persistence created enough critical mass to create lasting change.
During the first half of this decade, Saudi women achieved several milestones:
sending two representatives to the London Olympics (2012), a dedicated sports
arena in Alkhobar offering instruction in fitness, yoga, and martial arts for
women and girls (2013), and legislation sanctioning sports for girls in private
schools (2013) and physical education for girls in public schools (2014).
Significantly, Princess Reema bint Bander Al Saud was appointed as Vice
President of Women’s Affairs for the General Sports Authority (2016).
As women made incremental strides in
athletics, they also made incremental strides elsewhere in the public sphere:
working in the retail sector (2012), serving in the Shoura Council, the
Kingdom’s top advisory body (2013), running and voting in municipal elections
(2015), leading the Saudi stock exchange (2016) and Dammam’s King Fahd
International Airport (2016). All of these advancements, in athletics and in
society at large, indicate a nod from the government to not only facilitate the
growth of women’s public roles at scale, but to institutionalize the effort.
Experts debate whether Saudi Arabia’s
current transformation is genuine and sustainable. In my opinion, the strongest
indicator that they are is that government policies are evolving to reflect,
facilitate, and institutionalize grassroots activity, rather than the other way
Inside the Kingdom, this transformation is
occurring via the percolation of ad hoc, grassroots activities into government,
which has responded by adopting and then implementing supportive policies.
Although incremental, this process creates a feedback loop between government
policies and grassroots initiatives that is strong enough to withstand
conservative pressure—once implemented. This is what happened when Saudi Arabia
moved from a Thursday-Friday to a Friday-Saturday weekend; private businesses,
particularly banks, began staying open on Thursdays in order to align the
Kingdom’s workweek with international norms. This change gave way to a
grassroots movement to change the weekend. The government responded by floating
a trial balloon, announcing the possibility of change well before implementing it,
to allow for further public debate so that, when the shift was finally made, it
was anticipated and largely accepted by competing interest groups that may have
opposed it, such as the religious establishment.
Policies normalizing a role for women in
the public sphere are especially important for meeting the Kingdom’s economic
goals under Vision 2030. This will not only require more robust female
participation in the workforce, but a a drastic reduction in government
expenditures. In this regard, women’s athletics is more than just optics; it
will reduce the Kingdom’s ballooning healthcare budget by lowering incidents of
lifestyle diseases stemming from physical inactivity, such as diabetes and
obesity, that are among the Kingdom’s greatest public health crises. At the
same time, the government also recognizes that women’s progress has become the
metric by which the rest of the world measures Saudi Arabia’s advancement as a
For these reasons, I see the passage of
this new legislation, along with its implementation, as a sign that more
change, slow but seemingly steady, is coming; perhaps the recent Royal decree
to review the guardianship system (which came about as a result of grassroots
pressure and Saudi’s election to the UN women’s commission), will result in a
July 28, 2017
The world has gone through bouts of
anti-Americanism before. But this one feels very different.
In London last week, I met a Nigerian man
who succinctly expressed the reaction of much of the world to America these
days. "Your country has gone crazy," he said, with a mixture of
outrage and amusement. "I'm from Africa. I know crazy, but I didn't ever think
I would see this in America!"
A sadder sentiment came from a young Irish
woman I met in Dublin who went to Columbia University, founded a social
enterprise, and has lived in New York for nine years. "I've come to
recognise that, as a European, I have very different values than America these
days," she said. "I realized that I have to come back to Europe,
somewhere in Europe, to live and raise a family."
The world has gone through bouts of
anti-Americanism before. But this one feels very different. First, there is the
sheer shock at what is going on, the bizarre candidacy of Donald Trump, which
has been followed by an utterly chaotic presidency. The chaos is at such a
fever pitch that one stalwart Republican, Karl Rove, described the president
this week as "vindictive, impulsive and short-sighted" and his public
shaming of Attorney General Jeff Sessions as "unfair, unjustified,
unseemly and stupid." Kenneth Starr, the one-time grand inquisitor of Bill
Clinton, went further, calling Trump's recent treatment of Sessions "one
of the most outrageous -- and profoundly misguided -- courses of presidential
conduct I have witnessed in five decades in and around the nation's
But there is another aspect to the decline
in America's reputation. According to a recent Pew Research Centre survey of 37
countries, people around the world increasingly believe that they can make do
without America. Trump's presidency has made the US something worse than just
feared or derided. It is becoming irrelevant.
The most fascinating finding of the Pew
survey was not that Trump is deeply unpopular (22 percent have confidence in
him, compared with 64 percent who had confidence in Barack Obama at the end of
his presidency). That was to be expected - but there are now alternatives. On
the question of confidence in various leaders to do the right thing regarding
world affairs, China's Xi Jinping and Russia's Vladimir Putin got slightly
higher marks than Trump. But German Chancellor Angela Merkel got almost twice
as much support as Trump. (Even in the United States, more respondents
expressed confidence in Merkel than in Trump.) This says a lot about Trump, but
it says as much about Merkel's reputation and how far Germany has come since
Trump has managed to do something that fear
of Putin could not. He has unified Europe. Facing the challenges of Trump,
Brexit and populism, a funny thing has happened on the continent. Support for
Europe among its residents has risen and plans for deeper European integration
are underway. If the Trump administration proceeds as it has promised and
initiates protectionist measures against Europe, the continent's resolve will
only strengthen. Under the combined leadership of Merkel and new French
President Emmanuel Macron, Europe will adopt a more activist global agenda. Its
economy has rebounded and is now growing as fast as that of the United States.
To America's north, Canada's foreign
minister recently spoke out, in a friendly and measured way, noting that the
United States has clearly signalled that it is no longer willing to bear the
burdens of global leadership, leaving it to countries like Canada to stand up
for a rules-based international system, free trade and human rights. To
America's south, Mexico has abandoned any plans for cooperation with the Trump
administration. Trump's approval rating in Mexico is 5 percent, his lowest in
China's leadership began taking advantage
of Trump's rhetoric and foreign policy right from the start, announcing that it
was happy to play the role of chief promoter of trade and investment around the
world, cutting deals with countries from Latin America to Africa to Central
Asia. According to the Pew survey, seven of 10 European countries now believe
that China is the world's leading economic power, not the United States.
The most dismaying of Pew's findings is
that the drop in regard for America goes well beyond Trump. Sixty-four percent
of the people surveyed expressed a favorable view of America at the end of the
Obama presidency. That has fallen to 49 per cent now. Even when American
foreign policy was unpopular, people around the world still believed in
America - the place, the idea. This is
less true today.
In 2008, I wrote a book about the emerging
"Post-American World," which was, I noted at the start, not about the
decline of America but rather the rise of the rest. Amid the parochialism,
ineptitude and sheer disarray of the Trump presidency, the post-American world
is coming to fruition much faster than I ever expected.