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Middle East Press (29 Jul 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)



Nawaz Sharif's Exit Opens Door to Uncertainty in Pakistan By Waqar Mustafa: New Age Islam's Selection, 29 July 2017





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 To Baghdad

By Adnan Hussein

The Energy Factor in the GCC Crisis

By Susan Kurdli

The Good, the Bad and The Ugly Of The Gulf Crisis

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

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Nawaz Sharif's Exit Opens Door to Uncertainty In Pakistan

By Waqar Mustafa

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"PM failed to disclose his un-withdrawn receivables from Capital FZE, UAE in 2013 nomination papers," reads the Supreme Court order that left a litany of graft charges against the Sharif family for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 verdict.

"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 Sharif then.

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 certain here.

Source: khaleejtimes.com/editorials-columns/nawaz-sharifs-exit-opens-door-to-uncertainty-in-pakistan

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Attempting To Understand The Phenomenon Of Violence

By Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran

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.

‘Sacred 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 approaches reveal.

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 meet.”

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.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/07/28/An-attempt-to-understand-the-phenomenon-of-violence.html

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What Will Baghdad’s Role Be After Liberation Of Mosul?

By Huda al-Husseini

28 July 2017

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 constructing them.

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 much today.

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 roads.

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 Russia’s ally.

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.

Favouring Independence

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.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/07/28/What-will-Baghdad-s-role-be-after-liberation-of-Mosul-.html

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Why Abductions, Murders Have Returned To Baghdad

By Adnan Hussein

28 July 2017

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 maintained?

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 security collapses.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/07/28/Why-abductions-murders-have-returned-to-Baghdad.html

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The Energy Factor In The GCC Crisis

By Susan Kurdli

28 July 2017

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 Politics

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 by Qatar.

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.

Source: aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2017/07/energy-factor-gcc-crisis-170723071047556.html

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The Good, The Bad And The Ugly Of The Gulf Crisis

By Sinem Cengiz

29 July 2017

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 the region.

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.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1136096/columns

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The Gulf Crisis: Why Is India Still Neutral?

By Dr. Naser Al-Tamimi

29 July 2017

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 Independence

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 year.

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.

Financial Stakes

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 finance.

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.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1136101/columns

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Netanyahu Risks Rift with World Jewry to Stay In Power

By Yossi Mekelberg

29 July 2017

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 it.

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 country’s survival.

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 Israel.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1136171/columns

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Saudi Women In Sports Percolating To The Policy Surface

By Fatimah S. Baeshen

29 July 2017

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 sphere.

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 around.

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 nation.

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 similar outcome?

Source: arabnews.com/node/1136301/columns

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Why America Is Weaker Than Ever

By Fareed Zakaria

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 capital."

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 1945.

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 the world.

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.

Source: khaleejtimes.com/editorials-columns/why-america-is-weaker-than-ever

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URL: http://www.newageislam.com/middle-east-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/nawaz-sharif-s-exit-opens-door-to-uncertainty-in-pakistan-by-waqar-mustafa--new-age-islam-s-selection,-29-july-2017/d/112007




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