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Middle East Press (19 Jun 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Where Does The US Administration Stand On Qatar? By Maria Dubovikova: New Age Islam's Selection, 19 June 2017

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

19 June 2017

Where Does The US Administration Stand On Qatar?

By Maria Dubovikova

Turkey’s Struggle against Gülen Requires Great Care

By Sedat Ergin

Qatar: A Shameful History!

By Hussein Shobokshi

Plot To Assassinate A King!

By Turki Aldakhil

Is The UN Failing Rohingyas?

By Dr. Azeem Ibrahim

The Situation in Qatar Is Getting Difficult

By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

The Climate Movement Charges On, Even Without The US

By Winnie Byanyima

Trump and His Cuban Promises

By Manuel Barcia

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


Where Does The US Administration Stand On Qatar?

By Maria Dubovikova

18 June 2017

The diplomatic spat between Qatar and its neighbours in the Gulf and further afield continues to develop in a dramatic fashion. Some are linking it with US President Donald Trump’s visit to Riyadh, and some to matters involving Iran. There were suppositions that the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) had to act during Ramadan, as a preventive step to some unknown hostile maneuver Qatar was getting ready to launch. There are many different conspiracy theories.

Whatever the reasons for the crisis, Qatar has, for a long time, been a thorn in the side of its neighbors and many other Arab states. The coverage by Qatar’s media weapon, Al Jazeera, has endangered the stability of neighboring countries through its support of the notorious Muslim Brotherhood and even some terrorist groups. All of this has been causing a severe headache for regional players. Qatar has been a troublemaker in the region for too long. The conflict has been stewing for a long time with what was a “sworn friend” in GCC. Having erupted now, the conflict poses quite a substantial threat to the region’s stability.

The ongoing crisis in the GCC is really quite dangerous. Despite the efforts to mediate by certain regional and global powers, there is a serious risk that the conflict could escalate into war. The GCC is not homogeneous. Even the closest of allies such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE seem to have different public approaches and understandings of the ongoing crisis. Turkey has demonstrated its direct involvement in the conflict on the side of Qatar, having deployed troops there. Turkey is attempting to prevent the worst scenario by launching preventive measures, giving a strong message in case of hostile military manoeuvres against Qatar. Turkey will not step aside, and that means a serious escalation of the conflict if any military action is taken.

The crisis in the GCC developed not long after the historic summit in Riyadh, which brought together all GCC states ­— including Qatar — and countries of the Islamic world. Numerous deals, worth billions of dollars, were reached between the GCC states and the US. A center for countering extremism was launched, and countries declared a common desire to join forces to fight radicalism and terrorism. The post-summit euphoria was strong but did not last long.

Where does the US administration stand on the Qatari crisis? This question was bound to be raised following the $12 billion deal in which Qatar will buy US-made F-15 fighter jets. The deal was reached just days after Trump said Qatar funds terrorism.

Together with a Turkish military base, Qatar also hosts a US base. And the latter is used by the US Air Force to carry out airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. Obviously the US has no interest in losing its presence in this strategic spot, but at the same time Trump is quite tough on Qatar, and is even harsher on Iran and its allies.

What is clear is that the US administration has no concrete agenda on the Middle East, acting not only ad hoc, but also discordantly. Statements by US officials often contradict each other, and that questions the value and reliability of declarations and undermines the trust toward Washington. There is a severe noticeable gap between Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on the crisis in GCC. Tillerson was making attempts to negotiate the crisis and assist with mediation, while Trump has undermined these attempts, making harsh and undiplomatic declarations, as well as sharing a tough anti-Iranian position.

In such circumstances, foreign officials cannot count on what the US is promising or stating, and that dramatically complicates the decision-making process. There is no agreement even inside the State Department itself. Rumors that Tillerson was looking to hold talks between Qatar and the GCC were probably not groundless, but were denied by the US Department of State, which said there was no intention to hold a summit in Washington to find a solution to the ongoing crisis.

Under Trump, the US is guided by business, not by political principles. Trump is grabbing US allies in the region by their wallets, to rephrase his own words.

The ambiguity of the US position may cost the GCC dearly if regional powers continue to follow everything they like to hear from Washington, but ignore disturbing signals. Evaluations and calculations should be built exclusively from regional perspectives. The Qatar crisis must only be handled by GCC countries themselves, politically. The deepening split caused by the crisis will play into Iran’s hands. And if the crisis does escalate, the US will unlikely come to the aid of its allies.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1117166


Turkey’s Struggle against Gülen Requires Great Care

By Sedat Ergin


The owner of daily newspaper Sözcü, Burak Akbay, its website manager Mediha Olgun, and its Izmir correspondent Gökmen Ulu are all accused of “aiding a terror organization while not being a member of it.” Olgun and Ulu have been behind bars since May 26 over alleged support of what prosecutors call the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), while Akbay is currently abroad.

Several accusations have been directed at the suspects in order to link Sözcü to FETÖ. One of them is the claim that by citing the name of the hotel where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was staying in Marmaris on its website on the night of the July 15, 2016 coup attempt, they were reporting the address to coup plotters.

In a democracy, writing the venue where the president is staying is a routine situation that falls within the framework of press freedom. In the past, there was almost a competition between journalists to find out where a president or a prime minister was staying for their holiday.

In fact, other evidence shows that there was no need for “help” from Sözcü regarding the whereabouts of President Erdogan on the night of the coup attempt: After all, four of five presidential aides are currently defendants in FETÖ cases.

In the indictment prepared for the Presidential Guard Regiment, the team in the helicopters that took off from Izmir’s Çigli to seize Erdogan on the night of July 15, 2016 was informed of the hotel’s address by the president’s chief aide, Staff Colonel Ali Yazici.

Meanwhile, a number of pro-government papers have printed a photo of owner Burak Akbay with the Pennsylvania-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen. However, it has been proven that this picture is a modified photo of Ekrem Dumanli, the former editor-in-chief of daily Zaman, standing alongside Gülen. It is nothing more than a photomontage of Akbay in place of Dumanli. What’s more, several rumors that Akbay attended a college in Switzerland linked to the Gülen movement have also been proven false, as Akbay graduated from a private school in Switzerland.

Another aspect I find very strange is the claim that Hamdullah Öztürk, the cousin of Sözcü columnist Saygi Öztürk, was FETÖ’s top representative in Brazil. Of course, his cousin’s activities cannot make Saygi Öztürk a criminal, but as someone who has worked with Öztürk for many years in Hürriyet’s Ankara bureau I can say categorically that it is not possible even to imply FETÖ membership to him. In fact, many of his books are about conspiracies carried out by the Gülen movement. One of these books described the group’s organizational activities within the police force and was published in 2010, back when the Gülen movement was still highly appreciated by the government.

What’s more, I spoke to Saygi the other day. He told me that does not have an uncle and thus does not even have a cousin. He has received official documentation from the civil registry office that he does not have an uncle. So where do these claims come from?

Indeed, there is little need to recall Sözcü’s strong opposition against the Gülen movement, demonstrated over many years. The larger point we should note is this: Accusing a news outlet that strongly opposes FETÖ of being a FETÖ supporter is casting a dark shadow over the credibility of the struggle in this area, weakening the legitimacy of this fight.

As in the example of Öztürk, including nonsense allegations in investigation files only leads to doubts both in the Turkish public and in the international arena about the state of the justice system in Turkey. 

At a time when conspiracy theories about the July 15 coup attempt being orchestrated by the Justice and Development (AK Party) government remain potent – at least in part due to the systematic campaign conducted by Gülenists in the West - such moves damaging the credibility of investigations give strong cards to the hands of the circles in question.

Many of the July 15 coup attempt legal cases recently started, and are based on credible and strong evidence. However, problematic files such as the Sözcü investigation are distracting attention from these cases. It is not difficult to imagine the smiles on the faces of FETÖ members watching this happen.

Source: hurriyetdailynews.com/turkeys-struggle-against-gulen-requires-great-care-.aspx?pageID=449&nID=114468&NewsCatID=428


Qatar: A Shameful History!

By Hussein Shobokshi

June 19, 2017

KISSINGER Associates, Inc., an international consulting firm, is known as the mysterious advisory office owned by the former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. This office employs many influential former government officials and thus has, over time, earned a very good share of the influential weight in the corridors of decision-making in the United States of America.

Not long ago, this office was contracted by two states from the Arab world to “reform” their image and to present to the US administration that they would be strategic tools for them.

The first was the regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen, which suffered a very violent shake-up after the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda in Yemen managed to carry out a major terrorist attack against the US destroyer Cole which caused many causalities. Ali Abdullah Saleh thought that he must move to contact the influential Jewish community of Yemeni origins in Israel to open a channel of communication with the advisory office and presented himself to be a reliable partner to combat terrorism. The proposed idea was accepted by the Clinton administration under the pretext of combating terrorism.

The second state that hired the services of Kissinger Associates, Inc., was Qatar. After the coup of Hamad Bin Khalifa against his father, Hamad realized that he must protect himself from all opponents of the treacherous coup and began to promote himself as “ready” to be the new tool of creative chaos and to be protected with the US base in Qatar. The revolutionary left-wing public offering became one of the slogans of the satellite station Al Jazeera that he launched, and this great symbolic name which describes the dubious coup ambitions that cross the border of his small and geographically modest country.

However, the satellite station was used as a platform to address all dissenting voice of the various Arab countries. At the same time, the “Sharia and Life” was broadcast, a program that is ostensibly religious, but in fact it promoted the political Islam of the Muslim Brotherhood and made the controversial advocate of the terrorist fatwas Yusuf Qaradawi a star, the legitimacy that he was looking for and yearning for quite long. It was also the satanic mix that generated the mass movement and launched terrorism as a resistance in the countries of Libya, Iraq, Egypt and Tunisia.

Qatar is well versed with the approach, which served exactly what is happening in the region and in line with the agenda of the Obama & Clinton administration. Till the movement of rebellion in Egypt and millions taking to streets to overthrow the regime of Mohamed Morsi through the support of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain which was extended to President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. The change in situation in Egypt infuriated the coup regime in Qatar. However, Hamad was forced to hand over the formal authority to his son after the evidence of his conviction in support of terrorism came to the fore. His son, the current ruler, continued with the same support of terrorism and has been exposed in the eyes of the millions by recent events and his malicious agenda.

Qatar has drowned in the swamp of scandal and it will not be saved unless by the vigilance of its own people, who are ashamed of their honor of what is happening now but do not dare to speak out of fear of imprisonment or being stripped of their nationality, as happened to thousands before.

Qatar has sunk into disrepair and will end in history with great shame.

Source: saudigazette.com.sa/opinion/qatar-shameful-history/


Plot To Assassinate A King!

By Turki Aldakhil

18 June 2017

Saudi artist Talal Salamah said he will not take a residential unit offered to him by Qatar, saying that he does not need it.

This stance shows the extent of Qatar’s infiltration of soft power in Saudi Arabia.

Qatar’s infiltration is not limited to preachers as it also includes popular artists.

Doha seeks to influence artists and exploit athletes to serve bigger purposes which is imperial expansion, until it controls countries like Saudi Arabia, Libya, Egypt and Tunisia.

The dream seems funny but this is the truth. This is what the hidden scheme is about.

The hideous conspiracy to assassinate King Abdullah showed the Saudis the power of patience which the Saudi kingdom had enjoyed. Some talk about “harmony,” “peace” and “compassion.”

This is the how the situation is between the Saudi and the Qatari people.

Only solution

However, in terms of the regime, the only solution is to alter the political behavior, respect laws and states’ sovereignty and be disciplined within the context of international charters.

After there was a conspiracy to kill a King, someone talks about a ‘fitna’ (strife)!

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/06/18/There-indeed-was-a-plot-to-assassinate-a-King-.html


Is the UN failing Rohingyas?

By Dr. Azeem Ibrahim

18 June 2017

The UN office in Myanmar is in disarray as the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Renata Lok-Desallien, is due to leave the post prematurely. The office she presided over has been described as ‘glaringly disfunctional’ in internal UN documents, and the Coordinator’s strong emphasis on development programs and on having a good relationship with the Burmese government at the expense of human rights issues in the country has drawn sharp criticism from international observers.

This emphasis on ‘business’ over humanitarian concerns has been a stain on the UN’s reputation, but it is too early to say whether the incoming coordinator would address this problem, or whether the UN more widely is content to watch on as the Burmese military continues its methodical campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya Muslim minority in the north-west of the country, or as it continues to crack down on other border minority groups.

Other aspects of the UN’s involvement with the Burmese government are also quietly acquiescent to the developments in the country, despite strong protests from other Humanitarian agencies within the UN itself, such as officials from the UN refugee agency. An ongoing UN investigation led by Kofi Annan was supposed to mark a turning point in the UN’s approach to the Myanmar, but the investigation’s remit has been very strictly confined to just poverty reduction, and does not have any authority to comment on the humanitarian situation.

Indeed, Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the Burmese civilian government, has asserted that she would only accept recommendations from the UN in that narrow area, and that any UN probe into human rights abuses would be blocked on the grounds that it would “increase tensions” in the country.

The UN’s approach to this situation has been too patient. The idea was that the new, democratically elected government in the country, led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi needed to be given time to turn around the humanitarian situation in the country, and that the boat should not be rocked while they get their bearings after so many decades of military rule.

The hope was that under such a government the humanitarian situation would no doubt get better, even if it took some time for them to turn the direction of the country around.

Siding with the perpetrators

Unfortunately, the assumption that a democratically elected government under Aung San Suu Kyi would be keenly interested in the humanitarian issues the country is facing turned out to be baseless.

Suu Kyi has been in power for over 14 months at this point and throughout that period she has systematically sided with the perpetrators of the human rights abuses against the Rohingya whenever the question has been raised by the international community or by the international press.

She has reiterated and defended the ultra-nationalists’ absurd claims that the Rohingya are Bengali immigrants and that they do not exist as an indigenous ethnic group.

She has casually dismissed concerns that the country’s military is pursuing a policy of ethnic cleansing against the group, despite the glaring facts that the entire Rohingya population have been rendered stateless, half of them have already been pushed abroad, and perhaps as many as a quarter of those who remain in the country are held in internally displaced people’s camps and not allowed to leave.

And she has obstructed even the most timid attempt by international agencies to censure the agencies of the state who are carrying out the latest crackdown on the group.

It should be clear by now that Suu Kyi is not on the same page as the rest of us on the humanitarian issues in her country. ‘Giving her space’ will not enable her to take charge of the situation and push for positive change.

It will simply allow her to give cover to the army to continue its crackdown on the Rohingya. Our patience will not be rewarded. And the price for our patience has already been and will continue to be paid with Rohingya blood.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/world/2017/06/18/Is-the-UN-is-failing-Rohingyas-.html


The Situation in Qatar Is Getting Difficult

By Abdulrahman al-Rashed

18 June 2017

Last week, the Qatari government signed a deal to buy 36 F-15 fighter planes which are one of the best fighter jets in the world. Doha will thus possess a large air force in its hangars. In November 2016, it sealed a deal to buy 72 fighter planes of the same brand. Qatar’s problem is that it has a large air force that consists of superior jets but it does not have enough space for its pilots to practice. Its airspace has decreased after Saudi Arabia and Bahrain closed their air and land routes. Therefore, Doha no longer has enough space for its jets to practice, unless it wants to seek Iran’s help or travel afar to train.

Threats against Qatar will not be deterred by F-15 jets because Qatar is not confronting a military war. What is going on is severance of political, social and economic ties which Doha will not be able to bear.

Doha’s authorities are now complaining of the pressures which Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are practicing against it after its former emir, Tamim’s father, sabotaged the region.

The comfortable father emir managed battles via the phone and from afar while resting reassured that these Arab governments will not dare punish his country for what he has done against them over the years. But nothing comes without a price. 

Paying the price

These four countries, i.e. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE, want Qatar to pay the price for what it is doing to them if Doha insists on adopting an opposing political project. I think Qatar may continue to bite its nails for few months but it will not be able to bear the pain of severing relations like Iran does.

In the end, Qatar will back down and give up on the opposition parties it funds. It will shut down most of the media outlets it created in the past three years when it evaded its commitments in the Riyadh agreement.

Some of Doha’s problems can be solved. For example, they can import fruits and vegetables from Europe, meat from Australia and dairy products from Turkey, and they would pay more money to get these by plane.

However, there are problems which Doha cannot solve through money or developed means of transportation. Confidence in the political system will shake. As threats and costs increase, Qatar’s government will not be able to reassure its citizens and residents or end the tensions which affected them and major companies.

In the last two weeks since ties were cut with Qatar, the government tried to reassure its citizens and residents by propagating false news that claim disputes are about to be solved. At some point, it forged statements in support of it and attributed some of them to American officials, including to the US President Donald Trump. It exaggerated talks about the significance of mediations that failed and repeated the news to reassure its citizens that the American military base will remain in Qatar.

Pentagon denial

Two days ago, fake news broadcast by Qatari governmental media outlets said American troops carried out joint manoeuvres with Qatari troops. The Pentagon had to issue a statement denying this piece of news.

People in Qatar began to realize the bitter truth that their government got them involved in battles which have nothing to do with them. They realized that the crisis will prolong, the boycott will restrain them, disputes may worsen and relations may further collapse.

Meanwhile, countries harmed by Qatar’s policies said they made up their mind and will make Qatar pay a high price as long as it wants to threaten their security and stability.

All the tricks which Doha resorted to have failed, such as attempting to drive a wedge between Riyadh and Abu Dhabi and inciting the US against Saudi Arabia. It failed to awaken and activate social media and traditional media users and voices which it had hired in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE as the latter’s governments stood up against them and blocked all of Qatar’s inciting media outlets.

Saudi, Egyptian, Bahraini and Emirati governments are also monitoring financial transactions, communications and everything which they suspect Qatar has anything to do with. Practically, they have obstructed everything which Doha’s authorities have invested in inside their countries.

Above all that, activity is now counter-productive. The attack is now against Qatar and against parties affiliated with it. This time, the crisis will not end with kisses and hugs as per the usual Arab way. This is why Doha has to think well as the case against it is aggravating.

Some countries which have not joined or revealed support to punish Doha’s government are as enthusiastic to the Saudi, Egyptian, Bahraini and Emirati measures and are willing to support them.

The majority of the region’s countries agree that the Qatari regime trespassed all limits, caused great destruction, threatened the region’s entire security and aided terrorist groups and hostile countries like Iran. Therefore, these countries together will support targeting Qatar until it ceases it evil practices and raises the white flag.

Source; english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/06/18/The-situation-in-Qatar-is-getting-difficult.html


The Climate Movement Charges On, Even Without the US

By Winnie Byanyima

18 June 2017

President Donald Trump has proved again how beholden our politics are to the interests of the super-rich elite. The conniving, rich oilmen that were so desperate to prevent and frustrate the Paris Agreement found cheerleaders in Mr Trump and his party. They choose to protect their profits from a flailing fossil fuel industry over human lives and a clean, inclusive future for us all.

The Paris climate agreement threw people of the world a lifeline, and the United States played a vital role in getting us there, not least by working closely with China to clear the decks to a global deal. The world agreed on what needed to be done. One hundred ninety-five nations pledged to keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius and to achieve net zero emissions by mid-century.

Now, we remember how frayed that lifeline is, mostly for people in the global South. The emission cuts pledged still put the world on track for three degrees of warming. If you're living in a low-island state? That's too high for the prospect of a future. For the 13 million people in the Horn of Africa going hungry today, the Agreement is already too late. Climate change has worsened their suffering. They pay for a crisis they did not cause.

At times like this, I remember my uncle, a farmer in rural Uganda. It would take him 180 years to register the same emissions as the average American would in a year (pdf)! Why must he and his family suffer because of the excesses of others?

What's most painful is that the Paris Agreement was already compromised with concessions to the US. Despite being the world's largest historic emitter, the US put forward only a fifth of their fair share to cut emissions.

Contrast this to what developing countries have put forward: 125 percent of their fair share. This is where the good news starts. With every move, the pendulum of climate leadership swings further and more decisively towards the global South.

Recent forecasts show that China and India are on track to beat their emissions reduction targets. At the most recent global climate talks last November, 48 developing countries vulnerable to the impacts of climate change committed to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

That's not all. A transformation is taking hold in global energy markets. The cost of wind and solar has dropped by up to 80 percent in the last six years and unsubsidized solar is beginning to out-compete coal and natural gas on a larger scale.

In the US, the solar industry is growing, creating "jobs, jobs, jobs" over 15 times faster than the economy norm. At home in Africa, I'm energised by the growth of off-grid solar at such a pace that it could soon outstrip the rate at which people are being connected to the grid. These solutions are connecting people to power and giving them control over their energy resources.

Far from putting America first, President Trump's move puts the US last in the race to build a more sustainable economy.

Developing nations are joined by mayors of cities around the world, and businesses that finally stepped up in Paris to challenge vested interests in the fossil fuel industry. More companies than ever before are racing to commit to renewable power, 100 percent. Businesses, investors, mayors and academics, together representing $6.2 trillion of the US economy recently signed a pact to continue fighting climate change. They know that pulling out of Paris puts American workers at an economic disadvantage.

I trust that people in the US will not let their government get away with this. People fighting climate change around the world are in solidarity with our friends in the US as they organise nationwide marches and rally to block coal plants and pipelines from being built.

The climate movement is re-energised. The move to a zero-carbon future is unstoppable. Despite the injustice of Mr Trump's decision, our only response must be to redouble efforts everywhere else and strengthen the lifeline that Paris offered.

Nor can our world rely any longer on this outdated global governance which privileges richest nations at the expense of developing nations. Southern governments have taken on more responsibility for our world: this should be reflected in their power and position in the institutions of global governance.

The oilmen who fuelled this crisis are still there - doing their dirty business as usual - because the system perpetuates their wealth and power. The richest one percent today own more than the 99 percent combined; eight men own as much as the bottom 3.6 billion. Political institutions march to the tune of powerful corporations and the super-rich. Tackling the extreme gap between rich and poor and tackling climate change is part of the same struggle.

The spirit of Paris charges on, even without the US government, and with it the palpable hope of a better world.

Source: .aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2017/06/climate-sos-spirit-paris-agreement-charges-170615081620460.html


Trump and His Cuban Promises

By Manuel Barcia

18 June 2017

What a difference a year makes! I can still remember, back in February 2016, watching Raul Castro announce on Cuban television that Barack Obama would be visiting Havana a few weeks later. As I stepped outside my house in Old Havana, I found my neighbours dancing in delight to the loud music coming out of an old dodgy stereo wired to an even dodgier speaker. Change, it seemed, had finally arrived after decades and decades of attrition and suffering.

Anywhere I went afterwards, it was the same. Sport fans gathered in Havana's Central Park were even louder than they usually are, discussing a new world of possibilities that would start with the arrival of the US president and the Tampa Bay Rays, a Major League baseball team, scheduled to play a ballgame against the Cuban national team that same week. Everybody was thrilled. When I made it back to Europe a few days later, most of the people I talked to were equally excited with the winds of change. Cuba was about to have a Berlin Wall moment, or so it seemed.

Eventually, Obama came and went, the baseball game was a success, and within weeks the Jose Marti International Airport in Havana became as congested as any airport can be, largely thanks to the several new flights arriving from the United States on a daily basis. Havana and the rest of the island saw an almost immediate economic boom, chiefly fuelled by American tourists arriving in droves, to bathe in the sun of Cuba's Caribbean beaches and to degust mojitos and daiquiris in their places of birth. All appeared to be rosy. Then, Trump happened.

A new era

From the start, Donald Trump was the most unlikely of presidential candidates, and the most unlikely of presidents. The moment he was elected, a dark cloud of doubts and "what nows" descended upon the new and frail Cuban-American relationship. Not only did he know little about Latin America, but it was soon apparent that his presidential decision-making process would be dictated by a mixed assortment of anti-everything liberal, "alt-right" officers, who were bent on destroying any and all of Obama's policies, from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to the US commitment to reduce carbon emissions.

Cuba was not be an exception, even though Trump's administration has done little to seek the opinion of any experts on the island's history and politics. As Professor William LeoGrande from the American University in Washington, DC, noted to me in a personal communication last week, President Trump has nominated only five State Department officials so far, none of whom deal with Latin America. Taking advice instead from Cuban-American hardliners like Senator Marco Rubio and Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, Trump's Cuban policy finally unravelled last Friday during a speech at the Manuel Artime Theater in Miami.

Surrounded by Cuban exiles and by some leaders of the opposition to the Cuban government, Trump showered them with the sort of empty rhetoric that only populists are capable of spounting. Interestingly enough, according to Trump, most of his new measures were nothing but a reaction against long-standing Cuban government human rights violations. This immediately raised eyebrows everywhere, considering that Trump himself has had no problem in seeking good relations with the likes of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Rodrigo Duterte.

In other words, by resorting to the same kind of populism Fidel Castro and his brother have used in Cuba for decades, Trump gave us more of the same futile policies that have been applied to Cuba by successive US administrations. Every one of the objectives they had in mind when the embargo was declared in the early 1960s, failed over the years. Human rights in the island deteriorated, Castro - who was pushed into the open arms of the Soviet Union - outlived several aggressive and clueless administrations, and as Cuba grew poorer, Castro became a hero for the rest of the world, especially for the developing world.

Only when the collapse of the Eastern bloc once again forced the Cuban government into someone else's arms, things began to change. The more Cuba integrated with its hemispheric neighbours, the more things improved. The infamous and expensive exit permit - which was, in fact, an exit visa for Cubans to be able to travel - was eliminated. Permissions to live abroad became easier to get, thus stopping the unremitting break up of family units that had been the rule since 1959. Small entrepreneurship was finally encouraged, and restaurants, guesthouses, and private taxis were for the first time authorised. Obama's visit last year was not just a historical landmark, but it could have been the beginning of an era of prosperity and political change that now will be lost for good.

It was this opening of Cuba to the world, the one Pope John Paul II asked from Fidel Castro in a mass at the Revolution Square in January 1998, that set Cuba on a path of change and improvement. Granted, the human rights record of the Cuban government showed little signs of improvement, and a twisted sort of state capitalism was imposed. To the frustration of Cuban and Cuban-Americans, democracy failed to return to the island.

Even these critical, recurrent failures were starting to be openly discussed after Obama's rapprochement policy brought back diplomatic relations, paving the way for more and more exchanges of all kinds between the two former foes. But that world of possibilities is no more. Now, all those improvements are virtually lost for good, thanks to the fantasies of an ideologically driven administration ruled by white supremacist sympathisers and ultra-conservative, incompetent and ignorant officials.

Now what?

It's difficult to predict what sort of impact these new measures are likely to have upon the future of Cuba. Based on decades of experience, we can be almost certain that they will not do much damage to those who decide the destinies of the more than 11 million men, women and children who inhabit the island.

Trump repeated ad infinitum that he had come to Miami to keep his promises. Every time he did, he got the ovation he was after. Was this just another hollow populist exercise from a man in need of constant attention and adulation? Or was perhaps just a quid-pro-quo transaction with Rubio, Diaz-Balart and their hardcore, anti-communist following? The cynic in me thinks that it could also be his way of letting his friend Putin know that Cuba can now be Russian again. At the moment, it is hard to say.

One thing is almost certain, though. If these measures end up affecting someone, that someone is not going to be Raul Castro or any of his cronies; that someone is not going to be either the ever-stronger Cuban army, now in control of vast swaths of the Cuban economy. As it happened before, and it will likely happen again, the only losers in this phoney show will be ordinary Cubans.

Source; .aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2017/06/trump-cuban-promises-170617090154756.html


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