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Middle East Press (19 Aug 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Why Daesh Took Its Terror Campaign to Spain By Ben Rich: New Age Islam's Selection, 19 August 2017

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

19 August 2017

Why Daesh Took Its Terror Campaign to Spain

By Ben Rich

Qatar Looks For Solutions in Kerala

Jameel Al-Thiyabi

Hezbollah Drives Lebanon into the Arms of Murderers

By Diana Moukalled

America: A Tale of Racism

By Ahmad Al-Farraj

Iran, Israel and Destroying the Region

By Randa Takieddine

Dialogue with Iran through Qatar

By Salman Al-Dosary

Dubai Still In Lead, But Race for Gulf Financial Supremacy Is Hotting Up

By Frank Kane

It’s Not Only Egypt’s Trains That Are on the Wrong Track

By Mohammed Nosseir

As US Power Wanes, Here Comes China

By Dr. Manuel Almeida

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


Why Daesh Took Its Terror Campaign to Spain

By Ben Rich

August 19, 2017

The location and targeting of the attack deviates from Daesh's previous efforts

Despite its (relatively) low body count and primitive execution, Thursday's terrorist attack in Barcelona shocked many local and international onlookers. Daesh group was quick to claim responsibility for the attack, in which a van was deliberately driven into pedestrians on Barcelona's famed Las Ramblas strip. At least 13 people are dead, and around 100 have been left injured.

The location and targeting of the attack deviates from Daesh's previous efforts. These have typically focused on punishing countries directly involved in military operations against it in Syria and Iraq.

But how reliable are its claims of responsibility? And why was Spain chosen, given its relatively inconsequential role in the fight against Daesh?

Verifying the culpability of terror attacks can traditionally be a tricky affair. Given that organisations that engage in terrorism are doing so from a position of weakness, there is always an incentive to lie in order to bolster mystique and inflate the image of threat.

But in this regard, Daesh seems to differ from previous groups. It has typically been reliably truthful in what it claims to have been its actions.

One Australian example of this can be found in the 2014 Lindt Cafe siege.

The perpetrator, Man Haron Monis, proclaimed he was acting under Daesh auspices. But despite this declaration, and the potential propaganda victory it could bring, Daesh resisted such advances and distanced itself from the incident.

While Daesh would go on to posthumously praise Monis' actions, it never made any explicit claims to having organised or directed them. No pre-existing relationship was found in the subsequent inquest.

This incident, along with many others, seems to indicate that while Daesh claims a butcher's bill of heinous activities, it doesn't tend to overtly lie about them.

Such a policy, while initially appearing counter-intuitive, maintains Daesh's perception as a trustworthy source of information. This is particularly important in recruitment efforts, and makes it difficult for governments to challenge the Daesh claims in counter-propaganda.

For Daesh, maintaining a twisted sense of chivalrous virtue remains paramount.

The Barcelona attack also reflects Daesh's view of the world as a civilisational clash.

Described as a "reluctant partner" in the anti-Daesh coalition, Spain has resisted entreaties to join military efforts. Instead, it has opted for what it sees as a less risky role - providing logistical aid and training to local Iraqi forces, as well as preventing homegrown attempts to support Daesh abroad.

Spain's limited role in the fight, particularly in contrast to other terror victims such as France and the US, might lead one to expect it to be relatively low on Daesh's hit list.

But in terms of Daesh's conflict narrative, Spain represents just another manifestation of a hostile Western civilisation in a state of war against the Islamic community. This leaves it more than open for reprisals.

At a spiritual level, Spain also holds a special place in Daesh's mythology.

Once a part of the Islamic empire, al-Ándalus, as it is known in Arabic, is seen by many Daesh ideologues as a natural territorial part of the end-state caliphate and currently under direct occupation by infidels.

Terrorist reprisals like this attack are likely to intensify temporarily against Western targets throughout Europe and further abroad over the coming months and years, as the Daesh is systematically deconstructed on its home turf in Iraq and Syria.

Daesh remains heavily dependant on an image of defiant dynamism and a commitment to challenge the international status quo, which it claims subjugates the chosen community. As its ability to function as a "state" continues to decline, it will increasingly seek to maintain such a mystique through acts of spite against those that have prevented it from achieving its goal of a "caliphate".

Despite a likely future increase in terrorist attacks, Daesh also risks a growing public disinterest and apathy toward its activities.

As one commentator has written, the banality and nontheatrical nature of Daesh's approach to terrorism - particularly in contrast to Al Qaeda's keen eye for spectacular symbology - has left many onlookers less than impressed and far from terrified. - The Conversation

Ben Rich is Lecturer in International Relations and Security Studies, Curtin University

Source: khaleejtimes.com/editorials-columns/why-daesh-took-its-terror-campaign-to-spain-


Qatar Looks For Solutions in Kerala

By Jameel Al-Thiyabi

August 19, 2017

It has been three months since the Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Kingdom of Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Qatar. There is no immediate settlement in sight, and the four countries will not back down on the conditions and demands they have set. After all, their patience has worn thin due to Qatar’s policies, which are against all international norms and conventions.

The situation has been complicated because of the malicious policies of Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, former Emir of Qatar, and Hamad Bin Jassim, former Prime Minister of Qatar, and because of Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad’s refusal to address the demands which he pledged to do, and his refusal to abide by the six principles announced by the states which call for combating terrorism.

Qatar’s government has been seeking support in several world capitals and from global organizations but its efforts have proved futile. It has left no stone unturned searching for support and sympathy everywhere to the extent that it has even paid money for advertisements posted on London buses and taxicabs and broadcast on American TV channels. All this is meant to promote the idea of Qatar being oppressed and downtrodden and of being the victim. Again, this mendacious propaganda has proved to be futile, as the governments of other countries have not fallen for it.

The laughable thing is the Qatari government’s decision to resort to the Indian state of Kerala. The government hired some mercenaries there and paid them millions of rupees to improve its tarnished image. This clearly shows that Qatar has a bad reputation and a weak image, an image that has changed since 5 June 2017. Today, the international community views Qatar with suspicion.

The Qatari leadership should realize that going to Washington, London, Paris or even Kerala will not resolve its dispute with its neighbouring sisterly countries nor will it end this boycott. It also will not cancel the demands calling upon it to change its negative behavior. Qatar should realize that the only solution lies in addressing the demands of the four countries.

The desired solution lies in the Riyadh agreement. Egypt and the three Gulf countries are not the only ones that have cut ties with Qatar because of its policies; there is also Kuwait. Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad has already refused Qatar’s malicious policies and warned against their repercussion on the solid Gulf Council.

The Emir of Kuwait, who plays the role of mediator in this unprecedented crisis, will not remain neutral on this forever. He knows very well that Qatar has worked for the fragmentation and division of the Kingdom as well as the militarization of some of its regions. Qatar continues to work to sow sedition and destabilize the security situation in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

It continues to fuel revolutions and uprisings, gives bribes to corrupt persons and undermines the security of other countries in order to achieve the objectives of the Muslim Brotherhood’s vision in which the Qatari government believes. Let us not forget that Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad played the mediator’s role in the Riyadh agreement in 2013 and complementary addenda in 2014.

The Qatar government is now bogged down in a deep quagmire even if it tries to pretend otherwise. It has complicated the crisis and internationalized it when it should have contained it with sisterly countries. It continued to manoeuvre and lie until the crisis got out of control. Neither Iran nor Turkey can help Qatar at this stage. No matter how smart Qatar pretends to be and no matter how many billions it pays, it will not succeed in this. It continues to lose and will suffer from more losses and this will cause the Qatari people to suffer as well from consequences from which they could have been spared.

Using Al-Jazeera TV channel and other media channels, which it runs secretly, will not help Qatar in promoting misleading propaganda, the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah. Everyone can now see through these flagrant lies. The Qatari government has betrayed its sisterly Gulf countries but this betrayal will not undermine the strength and unity of the sisterly countries and will not achieve the Qatari government’s malicious desires.

It is high time that the Qatari leadership listens to the voice of reason and wisdom or else it will have to face more dire and severe consequences in the near future.

Source: saudigazette.com.sa/article/515361/Opinion/OP-ED/Qatar


Hezbollah Drives Lebanon into the Arms of Murderers

By Diana Moukalled

19 August 2017

Hezbollah has turned its back on all those who have protested against reviving relations between Beirut and Damascus. This time, the party did not infiltrate across the Syrian border to fight, capture hostages or smuggle arms and money. Instead, it sent to Damascus one of its members, the Minister of Industry, Hussein Hajj Hassan, to embarrass an already divided Lebanese government, challenge Lebanon’s neutrality in Syria’s war and declare the return of diplomatic relations that have been frozen for years.

Despite an explicit ban by the prime minister, Saad Hariri, on ministerial visits to Syria in an official capacity, the minister attended the Damascus International Fair, an event to promote the reconstruction of Syria. Disregarding the political speeches and verbal protests that accompanied the visit, with claims that the minister was not representing the government, what is happening is a clear forced normalization of relations between Beirut and Damascus. “The Syrian regime has triumphed over terrorism,” the minister said, praising the criminal Assad regime and helping it to evade any responsibility.

Let us be clear: This was a visit undertaken by a Lebanese minister in the name of Lebanon (not to mention in defiance of the anger of some of the Lebanese people) to a regime that is against the Lebanese and Syrian peoples. The official normalization of relations with the Syrian regime, forcibly imposed, is the culmination of Hezbollah’s achievements over the years, thanks to its military strength and the enormous political and financial support provided by Iran. However, we must not forget that what happened was also a result of the failure of Hezbollah’s opponents, either because of a reduction in political and financial support or because of wrong choices made in politics and management.

It is also important to remind ourselves what happened on the Lebanese-Syrian border at Jroud Arsal over the past few weeks. Hezbollah’s “war” with Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham, formerly the Al-Qaeda offshoot the Nusra Front, led to the withdrawal of 120 JFS fighters from their positions on both sides of the border, and their transport to a rebel haven in Idlib. In fact, the propaganda was louder than the actions and their results. The exchange deal did not even get close to the fact that more than one million Syrian refugees have fled to Lebanon.

In Lebanon, they are putting restraints on refugees and turning a blind eye to the tragedies they bring with them from Syria. The “war of the barren areas” was portrayed as a prelude to finding a Lebanese solution to the refugee issue. In fact, it did not come close to helping the refugees. On the contrary, it has exacerbated their situation.

Turning a blind eye to their stories can be compared to disregarding other stories, which say that the Assad regime, now forcibly allied to Lebanon because of Hezbollah’s pressure and support, does not want the refugees to return. The Syrian regime today controls more than 80 percent of the areas from which the refugees have been displaced, but it shows no positive intention regarding their return. Not only that, but Bashar Assad himself has said that the Syrian social fabric is better off without the displaced Syrians. Perhaps Hezbollah does not want their return either. For the party and Iran, Syrian welfare is a lot more important than Lebanese welfare. The refugees, if they returned to their homes, would constitute a demographic bloc that would rearrange the sectarian map in the areas of Syria where Hezbollah has seized control.

The Lebanese management of the Syrian refugee crisis is a matter of political and moral arrogance, especially when Lebanon takes the side of the regime that caused the suffering of the refugees in the first place, with the full support of a Lebanese political party.

Against this disgraceful background, Hezbollah’s minister took a step forward to pave the road for the normalization of relations between Damascus and Beirut. This is the same road that has already been taken to smuggle plans and weapons to kill us and many others.

Hezbollah has always openly pledged allegiance to these murderers. Once again, it is handing Lebanon over to them.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1147051/columns


America: A Tale of Racism

By Ahmad Al-Farraj

18 August 2017

American President Donald Trump is going through a crisis these days. It’s a real test for him as president of the country that’s described as the leader of the free world which is the tolerant democratic world that believes in individuals’ and group’s rights no matter what their colour, race or religion is.

The crisis is linked to racist activity of some extremist right-wing groups in America. They are racist Nazi movements that believe in white supremacy and they oppose all laws of equality. The most prominent of these groups is the Ku Klax Klan which was established in the American South after President Abraham Lincoln defeated the separatists who opposed liberating black people.

The KKK is still present to this day and it’s supported by dozens of other racist organizations.

The KKK was formed after the racist separatists’ defeat in the American South in 1865 and after the South was subdued by Washington. It pursued black people and abused them, and it had supporters in all of the government’s sectors, i.e. in the police, courts..etc.

Black people suffered from this group’s assault for decades especially that they were liberated from slavery but they remained second-class citizens according to the law as there were strict racist laws to separate black and white people in schools, public facilities and every place where people gathered.

After around a century of racial discrimination, black people engaged in strong activity and violence erupted. The federal government realized it must do something before the situation escalates and worsens.

A History of Violence

In 1960, the US elected the young John Kennedy as president. He was a democrat with an impressive charisma and he had a humanitarian agenda that included achieving justice and peace and supporting the poor. He decided to save America from serious escalation of conflicts between black and white people but he was tragically assassinated in Dallas in Texas in 1963.

He was young when he died and his assassination remains a mystery that’s difficult to understand although it’s been more than 50 years since he was killed and thousands of books and movies were produced. His vice president Lyndon B. Johnson succeeded him.

He was a humanitarian but not as much as Kennedy but he implemented the latter’s project and achieved a miracle by issuing a law that ends racial segregation and that imposes equality between black and white people.

Although this historical decision has worked as it should until this day, extremist right-wing groups did not halt their racist activity which reached its peak ever since Trump was elected. This is another story which we will discuss in another article.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/2017/08/18/America-A-tale-of-racism.html


Iran, Israel and Destroying the Region

By Randa Takieddine

18 August 2017

Western diplomatic circles close to Israel have been circulating information – supplied by the latter – which stipulates that Iran has stepped up its support and arms’ supplies to Hezbollah in Lebanon, particularly on the Lebanese-Syrian borders. According to these diplomats, Iran provided Hezbollah with a huge supply of missiles and it is training Lebanese fighters, among others, in Lebanon and not in Syria.

Colleague Philip Abi Aql wrote in L’orient Le Jour that President Donald Trump told Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri that Iran supplied Hezbollah with 150,000 missiles and that they only had 10,000 missiles before. The question now is where is Iran taking Lebanon to? Will we again pay the price of the alliance between part of the Lebanese government and Hezbollah?

A lot has been said about the army and its defence of Lebanon and battle against ISIS on the borders. The American administration is supplying the Lebanese army with equipment it needs.

However, unfortunately for Lebanon, Iran has managed to impose its influence on the country through Hezbollah and its Christian allies that represent the Lebanese state. The Lebanese people now wait for Hassan Nasrallah to deliver speeches to know his strategy in the region and inside Lebanon.

Funding Hezbollah

Iran has been funding Hezbollah and its allies for years because it wants to maintain the presence of the Shiite crescent on the borders with Syria and seeks to control part of Syria. The last thing Lebanon needs are Hezbollah’s threats that they will defeat Israel.

Lebanon cannot bear more destruction and wars. The Lebanese state is not like it was in 2006 when Israel launched its brutal war on Lebanon. Hezbollah’s influence has expanded now and it’s no secret that Lebanon suffers from this hegemony that no one in the government risks defying.

No one in the government can prevent Hezbollah from fighting in Syria to defend the criminal regime and no one can prevent Hezbollah ministers from visiting Damascus. No one can implement the UN Security Council resolution to disarm Hezbollah as on the contrary, Iran has stepped up its armament of Hezbollah. Meanwhile, Hezbollah claims that it is helping Lebanon avoid a new war with the Israeli enemy.

Destructive Powers

Lebanon is located between two regional destructive powers, Israel and Iran. The policy of dissociating the country from the region’s wars is naive because major powers in Lebanon are fighting in Syria and an important part of the state – especially those who aspire to become presidents later – is allied with Hezbollah.

Hezbollah helped the Syrian regime destroy Syria and murder its people, and by fighting this war, it contributed to displacing millions of Syrians. Lebanon alone hosts 1.5 million Syrian refugees and social tensions between them and the Lebanese people have reached a very dangerous level. Hezbollah put Lebanon under Iran’s mercy and impoverished it through the Syrian refugees.

It is killing Shiite youths who are brainwashed into thinking that they will be martyrs if they fight. What martyrdom is that when they are dying so Bashar al-Assad survives and Iran maintains its influence over Lebanon?

The situation in Lebanon will remain dangerous as long as Iran, Hezbollah and Israel control its fate, and especially that everyone in the region has left it on its own in a raging sea contaminated with problems.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/08/18/Iran-Israel-and-destroying-the-region.html


Dialogue with Iran through Qatar

By Salman al-Dosary

18 August 2017

Qatar’s new lie flew out the window of its “fingers crossed” policy which it had been implementing since the quartet boycott. This time, Doha claimed that Saudi Arabia wants a mediation with Iran.

This statement was never declared by any Saudi official or even the Iraqi Foreign Minister for example. It was reported that while he was in Iran, Iraqi Interior Minister Qassim al-Araji stated Riyadh has asked for Iraq’s mediation.

Saudi Arabia was quick in denying the reports about seeking mediation,” Saudi Arabia has not requested any mediation in any way with the Republic of Iran,” adding that what has been circulated on news in this regard is completely untrue, logic and series of events in the region makes it impossible that Saudi Arabia would request a mediation with Iran amid current conditions.

Aside from that, negotiations with Iran was impossible especially after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman settled the issue and stated his country’s clear position of this supposed dialogue: “There is no common ground between us and Iran”.

The Prince said there was no room for dialogue with Iran that is busy preparing to control the Islamic world. But, what made Qatar rush and promote such a false statement before even making sure of its validity?

The answer to that question can be summed in three points. First of all, the quartet boycott proved that Doha has no policy other than promoting lies.

Rumours Debunked

Initially, Qatar tried to make it sound that this is not a boycott but a siege. Then, it claimed that Qatari citizens were banned from Umrah, which was debunked as 1,600 Qatari nationals entered Saudi Arabia just few days before severance of ties.

After that, Doha tried to internationalize Hajj, before retracting its statement following a strongly worded response from Saudi Arabia warning it “not to play with fire”. Again, Qatar tried to spread a lie that its airlines are flying above the four countries, which is surely not true. Not to forget the organized campaign that Qatar used to resort to whether secretly, or through its media outlets, or indirectly.

The second reason is that Qatar is trying to alleviate the pressure on it after its openness on Iran. Everyone is alienating themselves from the capital and spearhead of terrorism and it is no secret that collaborating with Tehran would put Qatar in the same category. Iran wanted to spread chaos and destabilize the stability and security of the region.

If Qatar chose to be in the same league as Iran, then it surely is practicing a policy that is harmful to the region and the world, as well as consolidating the fears that drove regional countries to cut ties with it. Doha is even falsely trying to include Saudi Arabia in the same group.

The third reason for Qatar’s promotion of this exposed lie is that for years now, Doha had been repeatedly trying to force the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to approach Tehran. The Iraqi lie presented an open window to carry on with its attempts.

Doha Summit

I was assigned to cover the Doha Gulf Summit of 2007 and everyone was surprised with the participation of the former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the first Iranian president to ever participate in a Gulf summit since the council’s establishment in 1981.

Back then, a Gulf minister told me that they weren’t aware of the invitation. He said: “We hadn’t been aware of that and we weren’t consulted. We knew it from media.” Another Gulf official stated that there is Gulf “disgust” because of Ahmadinejad’s presence.

Doha even took advantage of the opportunity that GCC Sec-Gen Abdul Rahman al-Attiyah declared that the Iranian presidential invitation was sent due to a “joint Gulf wish”, which turned out to be false later on.

Just like that, Qatar chose over night to turn the tables on its principles. Doha participated in the war on Houthis then suddenly announced it was done out of courtesy. It developed a relation with Iran and constantly tried to deceive others otherwise. Sensible and sane countries do not change their principles. Stances change based on political developments.

Concerning dialogue with Iran, if Tehran continued with its sabotaging methods, then negotiations and mediations are useless. Once it changes its policy, then no one will be against stability in the region and countries’ rapprochement.

Dialogue is not possible while Iran dangerously escalates its expansion policies through its militias and accomplices in six Arab countries. Negotiations are not possible as long as Qatar keeps up with its hostile policy against Arab and regional countries.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/08/18/Dialogue-with-Iran-through-Qatar.html


Dubai Still In Lead, But Race for Gulf Financial Supremacy Is Hotting Up

By Frank Kane

19 August 2017

The Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC) last week gave an update on the impressive plans it has to expand — both physically and commercially — as part of a 10-year plan that aims to triple its size by 2024.

On the real estate side of the strategy, work is progressing well. The two big flagship projects are: A $280 million plan to link the current Gate complex with the southern end of the DIFC jurisdiction via an avenue of commercial, retail and leisure facilities; and a new $50 million office block addition to the Gate Village complex. Both will open in the first half of next year, according to Nabil Al-Kindi, the DIFC’s real estate chief.

That progress is matched by advances on the financial business side. Nearly 22,000 people now work at the center, making the 2024 target of 50,000 eminently achievable; there are some 463 financial firms registered at DIFC, against a target of 1,000 in seven years; assets under management — also forecast to triple — got a big boost last year when HSBC moved its Middle East headquarters to DIFC.

It is just as well the DIFC’s plan is on track, because it is facing increased competition to remain the leading financial center in the region. Not that policymakers would describe it as a race. The public stance is that Dubai welcomes the increased competition provided by the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), just down the road in the UAE capital, and welcomes the opportunities offered by the boom in financial services in Saudi Arabia.

But privately, it is looking over its shoulder at Abu Dhabi and Riyadh as contenders for its crown as the premier financial market place in the Arabian Gulf.

Which is why comments a couple of weeks ago from Bill Winters, the chief executive of Standard Chartered, caused some concern in DIFC. His bank has been a key member of the center since it opened in 2004, and a big chunk of its global business is managed through the DIFC.

Winters was asked by Reuters in London about the effect of the ongoing standoff between the members of the Anti-Terror Quartet (ATQ) and Qatar over allegations of terrorism funding. “There is a lot of benefit we get from having a Dubai hub, we are looking to see what the effect of this will be. There is a risk of turning away from the UAE,” he answered.

DIFC officials were quick to dismiss the report as a throwaway reaction spoken in haste, and certainly it is hard to see how the Qatar situation would affect Dubai directly or immediately.

If big financial institutions were to avoid the Gulf altogether because of the increased instability, Dubai might lose some business along with the rest. But it is also well placed to pick up any new business from financial institutions that want to avoid sanctioned Doha.

The Qatari capital stands to lose more than any other city in the Gulf. In the current climate, why would a big global financial institution want to be there rather than Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh or even Bahrain?

The risk of any kind of financial involvement with Qatar has become apparent in recent weeks, with the UAE running an informal blacklist for banks with Qatari shareholders seeking to get involved in government-related transactions.

There was also the suggestion that Qatar’s presence as a 10 percent shareholder of the London Stock Exchange will be the clincher in persuading the government of Saudi Arabia to opt for New York as the venue for the forthcoming initial public offering (IPO) of $2 trillion rated Saudi Aramco. That is one downside to the Qatari policy of “soft power.”

Wherever the Aramco IPO ends up, the preparations for that listing, and the $200 billion privatization of other state-owned companies in the Kingdom, will also increase the pressure on DIFC. While some bankers will prefer to live in Dubai and commute to Saudi Arabia, there will inevitably be a boost to financial business located in the Kingdom.

HSBC, Citibank and Mitsubishi of Japan have all recently announced plans to increase employee numbers in Saudi Arabia in anticipation of the fees bonanza to come from the economic transformation set in train by the Vision 2030 strategy.

Dubai is aware of the opportunities Saudi Arabia presents, but so too is ADGM, which you could argue is better placed to win it, in view of the close relationship between senior policymakers in Abu Dhabi and Riyadh.

Competition between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, so far largely confined to their rivalry in financial technology (fintech) initiatives, looks set to hot up.

We will get a clearer snapshot of the current standing of competing regional financial centres next month, when the biannual index of global financial centers is published by British consultancy Z/Yen Partners and the China Development Institute.

The “big five” hubs — London, New York, Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo — will probably continue to dominate, but look out for advances by other Asian cities, and from the Middle East. Political problems in the UK and America can only serve to emphasize the eastward drift of global capital.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1147071/columns


It’s Not Only Egypt’s Trains That Are on the Wrong Track

By Mohammed Nosseir

19 August 2017

Complaining that trains in the Netherlands are often delayed by a few minutes, a Dutch friend told me: “If other nations have punctual trains, we should not demand less.” While the Dutch criticize their railway’s lack of punctuality, we in Egypt pray that we will reach our destinations safely, no matter the delay.

Living in a country that has one of the highest road and railway accident rates in the world lowers our expectations. Rather than dream of a comfortable, punctual and affordable commuter rail network, we hope only to arrive home in one piece.

Just over a week ago, 42 people died and more than 100 were injured when two trains collided near Khorshid station on the outskirts of Alexandria. Human error was blamed for the disaster. Sadly, news of train collisions, bus crashes caused by drivers falling asleep at the wheel or boats sinking because of passenger overload is no longer shocking in Egypt.

The Egyptian state likes to brag about its success in expanding road networks and building bridges and infrastructure, and argues that the high population growth rate and citizens’ ignorance are the main reasons for the deterioration of facilities. Seeming to value human lives less than infrastructure expansion results in building more roads on which people can be more easily killed.

Human beings are the most crucial and advanced component of any country’s modernization effort. However, when the government does not appear to truly value the life of its citizens, it is unlikely that less educated drivers will do so. The Egyptian government appears to believe that human development is all about the ability to digest technical knowledge and eventually pass various exams, overlooking the fact that human development generally should aim at having well-educated, responsible citizens who know how to properly and effectively react to a crisis.

As was the case with the Khorshid tragedy, the government often attributes these accidents to human error. But the “humans” in these cases are often government employees. Videos on social media showing public buses speeding or train conductors smoking hashish at work should not only lead to the perpetrators being fired, but to changes in the system to prevent their colleagues from indulging in the same behavior.

Neglecting genuine human development and rejecting the use of technology are the real reasons for Egypt’s high rate of road and railway accidents. A small device can be placed on any vehicle to prevent it from speeding and determine its location. The state should use its substantially inflated workforce to avoid employee misconduct by reducing working hours, while maintaining strict discipline and productivity.

The government regularly advances the argument that it is working under strict budget constraints. However, Egypt’s plans for a nuclear energy plant at Dabaa, even with a $25 billion loan from Russia, refute this argument. A nation that cannot prevent avoidable road and rail accidents should not even dream of a nuclear power plant, even one managed by international experts. The project should be abandoned completely and immediately. We need to prove that we can crawl before insisting that we can run a marathon. Instead, let’s invest the money in reducing our accident rate.

Empowering Egypt’s human capital would enable them to go beyond their normal capacities, walking the extra mile to prove that they are responsible citizens. We need to create a harmonious relationship between our people and the engines they operate. Egyptian government employees need to understand that driving a vehicle, or a train carrying hundreds of people, requires an exceptionally responsible and conscientious citizen. They will not realize this on their own; we desperately need good governance to apply this vision.

New roads alone will not produce professional employees, but educated citizens could easily build and develop solid roads, and much more. We have been using our resources to expand concrete structures that won’t function properly unless they are managed by the right people. The Egyptian government needs to work on better developing its citizens, who will be the true assets of modernization. By limiting our ambitions, we have ended up with a miserable transport system that lacks all comfort and safety.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1147121/columns


As US Power Wanes, Here Comes China

By Dr. Manuel Almeida

19 August 2017

The waning US influence in the Middle East, tied to the Iraq debacle, the global financial crisis, the so-called pivot to Asia and an often confusing regional strategy, has not left a vacuum. Or if it did, it was of short duration.

Russia, Iran and even Daesh — from Syria and Iraq to Libya and Yemen — have made inroads in recent years in pursuit of their respective goals, contributing decisively to, among other crises, the catastrophe in Syria, the biggest the region has witnessed in recent decades. The substantial American military presence in the region, these days focused primarily on counterterrorism, seems to have offered little in the way of dissuasion.

But an often more discreet but certainly no less relevant player continues to enhance its influence in the Gulf and the wider Middle East: China. The last few weeks reveal the ever-faster pace with which the Asian giant is establishing its presence.

In July, on the 90th anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army, China opened its first overseas military base, in Djibouti. Although labelled a logistics facility, designed to support the Chinese navy’s participation in humanitarian and counter-piracy missions, the base is strategically located at the door of the Red Sea leading to the Suez Canal.

This month, Chinese banks lent over $3.5 billion to Oman, crucial for the sultanate to cover this year’s budget deficit and proceed with its austerity plans following the slump in oil prices. China’s financial heft had already played a key part — together with Saudi Arabia and the UAE — in unblocking the IMF’s bailout program for Egypt in November last year. In 2016, China became the largest investor in the Arab world, with 32 percent (almost $30 billion) in foreign direct investment. The US, the third largest foreign direct investor in Arab countries, accounted for $6.9 billion.

Equally in August, and according to Iranian press, China’s Special Envoy to Syria submitted to Ali Akbar Velayati, Senior Foreign Policy Adviser to Ayatollah Khamenei, the plan for Chinese involvement in Syria.

In March, a small contingent of Chinese troops was deployed in Syria to train and advise the Syrian army. Yet in Syria, Chinese priorities seem to have evolved, from initial concerns with stability and jihadists (mostly from the Uighur minority from Xinjiang) returning home, to broader geostrategic and economic considerations.

As the prospects of military defeat for the Assad regime have declined dramatically, speculation about a central Chinese role in the reconstruction of Syria has grown. The problem for Russia and Iran is that they now own the Syrian crisis, which is far from being resolved. With their limited capacity to invest in the Syrian economy, China’s involvement is a potential life saver — and it comes with the added value that, like Iran and Russia, the large-scale war crimes committed by the Assad regime seem not to be a primary concern.

The Chinese willingness, confirmed by China experts, to play a role in the stabilization of Syria, is certainly not unrelated to the role China envisions for Iran.

China has long seen Iran as a vehicle to counter US influence in the Middle East. Then Iran became an essential piece of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and the nuclear deal unlocked the remaining obstacles to this part of the plan. In February last year, in a highly symbolic event, the first cargo train departing from eastern China arrived in Tehran via Kazakstan and Turkmenistan, in just under two weeks.

Also after the nuclear deal, China is allegedly supporting full Iranian membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which Iranians have pursued for years. The SCO is considered the Central Asian equivalent and rival to NATO.

However, as China grows ever more involved in the Middle East, it is likely to look at the region beyond the perspective of great power competition with the US. This may come to raise some questions about how China will be able to find an accommodation with most of Iran’s regional policies, one the greatest sources of regional instability.

China’s first Arab policy paper, published last year, starts by praising China’s longstanding ties with Arab countries and advances various broad initiatives to strengthen these ties. It emphasizes shared goals such as safeguarding state sovereignty and territorial integrity, and fighting extremist and terrorism.

The revolutionary policy of Iran since 1979, based on overthrowing neighboring governments, building militias with transnational loyalties and supporting militant groups (Shiite and Sunni), contrasts sharply with the basic principles of Chinese foreign policy. The question is: will China’s Belt and Road Initiative speak louder.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1147076/columns


URL: http://www.newageislam.com/middle-east-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/why-daesh-took-its-terror-campaign-to-spain-by-ben-rich--new-age-islam-s-selection,-19-august-2017/d/112247


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