Roe’s Ripples Continue to Stretch Far and Wide
A Weekly Political News Magazine
Iranian Militias to Expand Further On Any New Attack in Northern Syria
A Weekly Political News Magazine
Issue 1911- June- 01/07/2022
Élisabeth Borne : The Long-Serving Technocrat
Issue 1911- July- 01/07/2022
Putin’s Rockets Pave Way for EU Enlargement www.majalla.com
Editorial Last week, Russia managed to turbocharge European enlargement, leading the West’s biggest bloc to open its arms to states that Vladimir Putin undoubtedly sees as being in Russia’s orbit. Maia Otarashvili said that if this is Putin’s masterplan, one wonders if he thinks it is going well. Indeed, if Russia’s battleplan for conquering Ukraine could be said to have taken some unexpectedly heavy hits, its diplomatic strategy with regards to Europe and the West has been left hospitalised with shell-shock. In the politics section, Jiwan Soz writes about how with Moscow being preoccupied with the Ukrainian war and the withdrawal of some of its forces and senior military leaders from Syrian territory after an intervention that lasted for years and prevented the fall of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the Iranian intervention in Syria gained more space after the protests demanding his departure erupted in mid-March of 2011. He added that Moscow and Tehran later intervened and sided with Assad as the main supporters, but today the situation is different, and Tehran is attempting to capitalize on Russia›s concern and expand further into Syrian territory. In the Feature section, Salwa Samir writes about the recent announcement by the Egyptian government that Kharga is the first ever green environmentallyfriendly city.
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Kharga is the capital of New Valley governorate in the southern part of Egypt. Egypt’s Minister of Environment Yasmin Fouad said the city of Kharga is a success story that will be presented during the upcoming COP27 climate conference, which will be held in Sharm El-Sheikh this November, hoping to repeat this experience in other cities and governorates. In the Sports section, Sara Gamal interviews Egypt›s Paralympic Swimming Champion, Malak Abdelshafi, who finished fourth in the world in the 100m breast-stroke in the medical classification sp4 class with a time of 2.16, only five seconds behind the French champion. Because of the young age of the swimmers and the fact that four swimmers have reached the world championship finals for the first time in a long time, these results are considered a major achievement for Paralympic swimming. Abdelshafi, a -19year-old, is the first Egyptian female swimmer qualified for the finals of the Paralympic Games in Tokyo 2020 and an African Record Holder in 100m breastroke (London 2019) and winner of the Silver Medal at the Youth World Championship (Athlone 2018). Read these articles and more on our website eng.majalla.com. As always, we welcome and value our readers’ feedback and we invite you to take the opportunity to leave your comments on our website.
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A Weekly Political News Magazine
A Weekly Political News Magazine
28 How Free Trade Can Fight Inflation
Issue 1911- July- 01/07/2022
34 Two Scenes between East, West
18 NATO’s Hard Road Ahead
42 Going Green
Meet Malak Abdelshafi, Egypt’s
56 Paralympic Swimming Champion 5
Story Behind Current Attack on Hollywood Foreign Press Association
58 How Do I Calm My Shaking Hands?
Jiddah Season at the historical site A tourist poses for a selfie during Jiddah Season at the historical site of old city, in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, Wednesday, June 29, 2022. More than 5 million visitors from the Kingdom and around the world have attended Jiddah Season, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported. /AP
the Pushkin Museum in Moscow Visitors look at paintings on display at a press preview of an exhibition titled ‹Brother Ivan. Collections of Mikhail and Ivan Morozov,› at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow, Russia, 27 June 2022. The exhibit dedicated to the Morozov brothers is the main project of the Pushkin Museum in 2022. It will bring together more than 600 masterpieces from different museums and run from 28 June to 30 October 2022. EPA
EGYPT Egypt's leader on Saturday discussed energy and investment with Qatar's emir, who was in Cairo for the first time since the countries restored relations following a Saudi-led rift. Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani told President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi that his country was keen to "maximise Qatari investments in Egypt and take advantage of the vast investment opportunities available", according to an Egyptian presidency statement. The pair discussed developing cooperation "in various fields, especially in the energy and agriculture sectors", and in trade and investment, "particularly the flow of Qatari investments towards Egypt", the statement added.
Energy-rich Qatar has given Lebanon's cash-strapped armed forces $60 million, the foreign ministry in Doha announced Thursday. "The announcement comes within the framework of the State of Qatar's firm commitment to support the Republic of Lebanon," the ministry said in a statement. Lebanon is grappling with an unprecedented financial crisis, branded by the World Bank as one of the planet's worst since the 1850s. The small Mediterranean country defaulted on its debt in 2020, the local currency has lost around 90 percent of its value on the black market, and the UN now considers four in five Lebanese to be poor.
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UAE The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is close to its oil output ceiling under OPEC+ agreements, an official said, ahead of a regional visit by United States (US) President Joe Biden, who is expected to lobby for increased production. The Gulf state stressed it was committed to the OPEC+ figure of 3.168 million barrels of oil per day (bpd). Biden will visit neighbouring Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, as part of his tour next month.
IRAQ A French court has found 19 men guilty of terrorism-related charges for the Islamic State terrorist attacks on the Bataclan theater, Paris cafes and France’s national stadium in 2015. The deadliest peacetime attacks in French history killed 130 people. Presiding judge Jean-Louis Peries was rendering the verdict Wednesday in a courthouse surrounded by unprecedented security, wrapping up an exceptional, nine-month trial. The chief suspect, Salah Abdeslam, was found guilty of murder and attempted murder in relation with a terrorist enterprise, among other charges.
IRAN Iran has submitted an application to become a member in the group of emerging economies known as the BRICS, an Iranian official said. Iran's membership in the BRICS group, which includes Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, "would result in added values for both sides," Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesperson said. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said separately that Argentina had also applied to join the group. Argentinian officials could not be reached for immediate comment. Argentina's President Alberto Fernandez, currently in Europe, has in recent days reiterated his desire for Argentina to join BRICS. "While the White House was thinking about what else to turn off in the world, ban or spoil, Argentina and Iran applied to join the BRICS," Zakharova wrote on the Telegram messaging app.
A WEEK ACROS CANADA.
U.S. Indirect talks between Tehran and Washington aimed at breaking an impasse over how to salvage Iran's 2015 nuclear pact have ended in Qatar without the progress "the EU team as coordinator had hoped for", EU's envoy Enrique Mora tweeted on Wednesday. "We will keep working with even greater urgency to bring back on track a key deal for non-proliferation and regional stability," Mora said. A U.S. State Department spokesperson said in a statement that Iran "failed to respond positively to the EU's initiative and therefore ... no progress was made" in the talks.
Canadian police shot dead two men and six officers were wounded during a gunfight at a bank in British Columbia on Tuesday, and nearby homes were evacuated after the discovery of a possible explosive device, police said. Emergency response team members arrived on the scene at the Bank of Montreal in Saanich, on Vancouver Island, near the border with the U.S. state of Washington, around 11 a.m. (1800 GMT), law enforcement said. "This remains an ongoing police incident with a heavy police presence in the area," Saanich police said on their website. "Homes and businesses in close proximity to the scene of the incident have been evacuated due to the presence of a potential explosive device in a vehicle associated to the suspects." Later, police said they were lifting a shelter-in-place order but that the block near the bank remained closed over the potential bomb.
Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers held a gathering Thursday of some 3,000 Islamic clerics and tribal elders for first time since seizing power in August, urging those at the meetin to advise them on running the country. Women were not allowed attend. The Taliban, who have kept a complete lock on decision-making since taking over the country, tout the gathering in the capital of Kab as a forum to hear a range of voice issues facing Afghanistan.
SS THE WORLD UKRAINE.
NATO on Wednesday branded Russia the most "direct threat" to allied security after Moscow's invasion of Ukraine and vowed to modernise the beleaguered Ukrainian military, saying it stood four-square with Kyiv in "the heroic defence of their country". Completing a summit dominated by the geopolitical upheaval caused by the invasion, NATO formally invited Sweden and Finland to join the alliance and pledged to reinforce combat-ready and rapid-reaction forces on its eastern flank, closest to Russia.
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INDIA. Protesters in India's financial capital Mumbai on Monday demanded the release of a critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was arrested over the weekend on suspicion of faking documents about anti-Muslim riots in 2002.
China on Tuesday announced an easing of its quarantine requirement for people arriving from abroad but stopped short of lifting what remains a stringent COVID-19 policy compared to most other countries. Anyone coming from outside the country will be required to stay in a quarantine hotel for seven days, followed by three days of home quarantine, the National Health Commission said in its latest pandemic response plan. The previous plan called for 14 days in a hotel plus seven days of home quarantine. Some cities, including Beijing, have already reduced the hotel requirement to seven or 10 days in recent weeks, according to Chinese media reports.
Putin’s Rockets Pave Way for EU Enlargement Kiev Getting Longed-for Financial, Military Assistance
By Maia Otarashvili
One of the many ironies of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was its pretext - to rid the country of a Nazi administration, despite the head of that administration being Jewish. Another was Russia’s insistence that this was not an invasion but a “special military operation” that Moscow thought would be over in a week. That was in February. Yet, few ironies can match those of the Russian gameplan gone so horribly wrong. In a bid to isolate Ukraine, Russia has isolated itself. Having assumed that the West would fracture and fold, Russian actions have coalesced and invigorated the free world. And while trying to push its opponents back from its borders, Russia has attracted thousands of heavily armed NATO forces to its eastern boundary and led the allies to
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting on the road construction development via video link at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia June 2022 ,2. Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/ Pool via REUTERS
spend unprecedented sums on defense. Sun Tzu said the supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting. Russia has galvanised the enemy by fighting nearby and not winning. To add to Kremlin woes, last week Russia managed to turbocharge European enlargement, leading the West’s biggest bloc to open its arms to states that Vladimir Putin undoubtedly sees as being in Russia’s orbit. If this is Putin’s masterplan, one wonders if he thinks it is going well. Indeed, if Russia’s battleplan for conquering Ukraine could be said to have taken some unexpectedly heavy hits, its diplomatic strategy with regards to Europe and the West has been left hospitalised with shell-shock. There is no doubt that Putin’s rockets have led to rocketing food and energy prices around the world, something the Russian leader may well have anticipated. What he may not have expected was the knock-on effect this had of expedited policies in dozens of capitals to wean their countries off a reliance on Russian exports in both industries. If Putin thought the need for Russian grain and gas would quell Western anger, he has witnessed the opposite. Back in February, which seems like a lifetime ago, Putin sought to justify Moscow’s aggression by saying that Ukraine had become overly militarised and was now too closely allied with NATO and the West. He argued that Ukraine was in Europe’s “pocket”, acting in Europe’s interests only, allowing the United States and NATO to gain a strategic foothold in Russia’s backyard. Neither argument was fair or accurate. Truth be told, Western support to Ukraine before the war was limited. Many in Kyiv felt, with some justification, that they were fighting the Russians on their own. Moscow’s aggression in 2014 carved out Crimea and areas in Ukraine’s east with little blowback, following a wholly underwhelming Western reaction. Analysts bemoaned the lack of a coherent Western policy when it came to Russia, Ukraine, and the Black Sea, and traced the lukewarm military response eight years ago to this year’s full-scale invasion. Based on the West’s past timidity, they said, Putin simply did not fear the consequences. Yet consequences this year there have most certainly been, with ripples reaching far beyond sanctions. An aspiring member of both EU and NATO, Ukraine had previously been given only ambiguous promises of eventual membership for each. Both groups kept engaging Ukraine and kept their ‘open door’ policies but kept the door on the chain, just in case. Both the EU’s eastern enlargement and further NATO expansion were on the backburner. Today, the picture is very different. The security landscape of Europe has already changed greatly and is still in a state of flux. Most recently, Turkey’s acquiescence has allowed NATO to welcome Finland and Sweden, two states that have been religiously neutral for decades. More may join. With every day that passes, with every Russian missile that obliterates a school or a shopping
To add to Kremlin woes, last week Russia managed to turbocharge European enlargement, leading the West’s biggest bloc to open its arms to states that Vladimir Putin undoubtedly sees as being in Russia’s orbit. mall or a theatre, NATO’s Article 5 – that famous and ironclad duty to ride to the aid of other members - looks like an increasingly useful insurance policy. While Ukraine’s NATO prospects are still long-term, Kyiv is now getting the kind of military and financial aid its leaders have long yearned for. A policy aim on both sides of the Atlantic is now to “arm the Ukrainians to the teeth”. Beyond that, there are new NATO bases forming along the EU’s eastern flank, with pre-existing bases being bolstered by troops and air defence systems. In short, the Alliance is gearing up. For military planners, these are heady days. For years, there has been little or no Western appetite for provoking Russia. American and European leaders have proceeded with extreme caution when it came to the Kremlin, almost to the point of undermining NATO’s reputation and purpose. War has changed all that. “Allies are stepping up and increasing defense spending,” said U.S. President Joe Biden this week. Germany, for instance, has created a special military fund of more than $100 billion. More importantly, NATO now knows that deterrence means physically containing Russia through enlargement all the way along Russia’s border. This is Putin’s worst nightmare. What would EU enlargement look like? Of the states along Russia’s edges, three are ‘EU Eastern Partnership Policy’ countries, these being Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia. When tanks marked with ‘Z’ rolled over the Ukrainian border in February, they asked the EU to accelerate their membership application processes. On 23 June, the EU agreed, so ending their purgatory and placing them on a path to membership. Ukraine and Moldova were granted formal ‘candidate’ status. Georgia, with its current pro-Russia government and signs of democratic backsliding, was promised the same if it undertook several reforms first. All three were granted visa-free travel to the Schengen Zone and signed Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements (DCFTA) with the EU five years ago. Difficult political and economic reforms remain but the EU is now sending aid and spending time to help them.
The benefits are already being felt. Moldova, for instance, has made significant strides towards combating rampant corruption. In the capital Chisinau, the pro-Russian, Communist Party-affiliated President Igor Dodon was replaced with the dynamic, pro-European government of President Maia Sandu. Before the war, Ukraine under President Zelensky sought similar transformations – in both government and society and the admirable strength and conviction of the Ukrainian people has been on full display for the last five months. The feeling in Europe that Ukraine is “one of us” has never been more palpable. The shelter and safe passage through Europe of millions of Ukrainian refugees provides further testimony, if any were needed. Interestingly, Moldova under Sandu has acted as a bridge between Ukraine and the EU. The idea that these states may soon be EU members is not one that most political analysts would have given much credence until recently. Yet obstacles still lie ahead, not least in the ‘Copenhagen Criteria’, a daunting set of political, economic, and administrative capacity requirements for candidates. The EU Commission will want to
There is no doubt that Putin’s rockets have led to rocketing food and energy prices around the world, something the Russian leader may well have anticipated.
see stable institutions, democratic guarantees, the rule of law, human rights, a respect for - and protection of – minorities, a functioning market economy, and the capacity to cope with competition and market forces, to name but a few. Putin will be banking on these ex-Soviet states’ inability to deliver. For the states themselves, Russian tanks on their doorsteps provide a very good motivation to get those boxes ticked. Membership would change everything. In his address to the EU parliament on 23 June, Zelensky described this milestone moment for both his country and the continent. “I believe this is what will always be the starting point of Europe’s new history,” he said. “Europe without division, Europe without grey zones, Europe that is truly united and knows how to defend itself, its values, its future. Today you have adopted one of the most important decisions for Ukraine in all 30 years of independence of our state. However, I believe this decision is not only for Ukraine. This is the biggest step towards strengthening Europe that could be taken right now, in our time, and in such difficult conditions, when the Russian war is testing our ability to preserve freedom and unity.” European flags have “been in the hands of our people in the trenches since 2014,” he said, adding that Ukrainian and European flags would fly alongside one another once again “when we rebuild our state after this war together”. President of the European Council Charles Michel agreed. “Our future is together,” he said. On the other side of the Black Sea, in Georgia, sceptics say that future suddenly looks less European. Just a few years ago, Georgia was the frontrunner of the three, boasting democratic reforms, dynamic political leadership, and an unwa-
A tank of the Ukrainian Armed Forces its seen in the industrial area of the city of Sievierodonetsk, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, Ukraine June 2022 ,20. REUTERS/ Oleksandr Ratushniak
Russian service members march during a parade on Victory Day, which marks the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, in Red Square in central Moscow, Russia May ,9 2022. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina/File Photo
vering pro-Western stance. In the past decade, however, there have been setbacks. Most attribute these to the influence of pro-Russia oligarch Bidzini Ivanishvili, widely acknowledged as the power behind the Georgian throne. Alas, to the EU, news of Russian interests in Georgian politics, claims of vote-rigging, continued political crises, government incompetence and corruption, and debilitating political polarisation, all bode ill. Before Ivanishvili bestrode Georgia’s political scene, bilateral relations with Kyiv were good. Today, they are poor. When Russia invaded, Georgia not only declined to participate in sanctions but became a ‘safe-haven’ for Russian money and Russian citizens, just as Moscow’s list of friendly nations shrank by the hour. To add insult to injury, Georgian ministers openly feuded with Ukrainian counterparts, touting Russian propaganda, even accusing Kyiv of trying to “open a second front” by dragging Tbilisi into the war. Things got so bad that Zelensky recalled the Ukrainian ambassador. Today, Georgians are displeased with their government’s criticism of Ukraine and its failure to progress as ‘official EU candidate’. Protests have already begun and look set to continue. Whether to Russia’s south or west, to its frontline in the Donbas or backline in Red Square, a world that was meant to open up with the conquering of Ukraine and the splintering of the Western alliance has suddenly coming piling in, a united transatlantic front marching towards the Kremlin’s door. Russia’s military prowess, its reputed qualitative edge, was supposed to have been demonstrated in Ukraine. It was supposed to have won the battle by now, and to have deterred the West’s supply of weaponry. It has not. Russia’s ace card - its
American and European leaders have proceeded with extreme caution when it came to the Kremlin, almost to the point of undermining NATO’s reputation and purpose. gas and the threat of withholding this - was supposed to have warned the Europeans off. It has not. Attacking Ukraine was supposed to have pushed the West back, yet it has prompted the West to tackle Moscow’s crude adventurism in a way that it has not dared do since the Cold War. Far from being subdued, Russia’s enemy is energised and motivated. The art of war has rarely been less supreme. Maia Otarashvili is a Research Fellow and Deputy Director of the Eurasia Program at the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI). She is co-editor of FPRI’s 2017 Democracy Matter? The United States and Global Democracy Support. Her research interests include the geopolitics of the Black SeaCaucasus region, the post-Communist CEEE countries, EU’s eastern enlargement policies, and Russian foreign policy. Maia is a regular contributor for the Majalla Magazine. She holds an M.A. in Globalization, Development and Transition from the University of Westminster in London. Maia is currently pursuing her PhD at the Department of War Studies, King’s College, London, researching the post-Soviet conflicts of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Transnistria.
NATO’s Hard Road Ahead
The Greatest Threats to Alliance Unity Will Come After the Madrid Summit By Charles A. Kupchan Thanks to Russian President Vladimir Putin, NATO’s Madrid Summit takes place this week against the backdrop of a resurgent Western alliance. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine compels NATO to return to its founding mission of providing collective defense against Russia. Members of the alliance are demonstrating remarkable unity and resolve as they funnel arms to Ukraine, increase defense spending, bolster the alliance’s eastern flank, and impose severe economic sanctions against Russia. The invasion of Ukraine has shown that NATO is back, but the reality is that it never went away. The alliance was actually in good shape even before Putin launched his errant war,
which is one of the reasons that it has been able to respond to developments in Ukraine with such alacrity and solidarity. Since the Cold War’s end, NATO has demonstrated a remarkable ability to adapt to the times, undertaking operations far afield, including in Afghanistan and in the Balkans, and opening its doors to Europe’s new democracies. As a consequence of the war in Ukraine, an already strong NATO just got stronger. But despite its clean bill of health and demonstrable unity, NATO faces a thicket of thorny issues, and discussions in Madrid will only just begin to address them. The war in Ukraine will, of course, dominate the summit. The conversation is poised to focus on the easy part: getting more arms to the frontlines. But NATO also needs to take up the hard
part: when and how to marry the flow of weapons to a diplomatic strategy aimed at producing a cease-fire and follow-on negotiations over territory. The urgency of making that pivot stems from the need not just to end the death and destruction but to limit the war’s economic spillover, which could threaten the Atlantic alliance from within by eroding solidarity and weakening the West’s democratic foundations. The conflict in Ukraine also puts on NATO’s agenda a set of additional challenges: managing the future of enlargement, channeling Europe’s growing geopolitical aspirations, and building a transatlantic architecture that can accommodate the ever more complex and diverse issues facing the West.
A DIPLOMATIC ENDGAME
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaking in Madrid, June 2022. (Violeta Santos
Moura / Reuters)
The transatlantic effort to support Ukraine has focused on providing the country the weapons it needs to defend itself. That is as it should be. Kyiv needs more firepower to resist, and even reverse, Russian advances in Ukraine’s east and south. The goal, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, is to “defend every meter of our land.” Washington has so far been unwilling to caution Kyiv against seeking the full expulsion of Russian troops from its land. “We’re not going to tell the Ukrainians how to negotiate, what to negotiate and when to negotiate,” Colin Kahl, the undersecretary of defense for policy, has stated. “They’re going to set those terms for themselves.” But it is time for NATO to focus on a diplomatic endgame and capitalize on its successful effort to strengthen Ukraine’s hand by facilitating a cease-fire and follow-on negotiations. Since Ukraine’s initial military successes, momentum on the battlefield has shifted to Russia’s advantage, which is one of the reasons France, Germany, Italy, and other U.S. allies are pressing for a turn toward diplomacy. Washington has so far resisted. As President Joe Biden put it in early June, “I will not pressure the Ukrainian government—in private or public—to make any territorial concessions.” But Washington can hold off for only so long. At issue is not just maintaining transatlantic solidarity by picking up the European call for a strategy that includes a pathway to a diplomatic settlement. Even with additional weaponry, Ukraine likely lacks the combat power to drive Russian forces from all its territory or even to restore the territorial status quo of February. Continuing the war may well mean more loss of life and territory, not battlefield gains for Kyiv. And the longer the war goes on, the higher the risk of escalation, whether by design or by accident, and the more prolonged and severe its disruptions to the global economy and food supply. Of particular concern are the war’s economic effects on NATO members themselves, including the potential impact of rampant inflation on American politics. The do-
It is time for NATO to focus on a diplomatic endgame and capitalize on its successful effort to strengthen Ukraine’s hand by facilitating a cease-fire and followon negotiations. mestic foundations of U.S. foreign policy are much more fragile than they once were. The bipartisan centrism that prevailed during the Cold War is long gone, giving way not just to polarization but to a potent strain of neo-isolationist sentiment. Former President Donald Trump’s “America first” foreign policy was a symptom more than a cause of this inward turn. Biden’s “foreign policy for the middle class” signals that Democrats, too, are sensitive to the electorate’s desire for Washington to spend more time and resources solving problems at home instead of abroad. Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan delivered on that front. His ambitious agenda for domestic investment and renewal also aimed at improving the lives of Americans, getting the middle class back on its feet, and rebuilding the nation’s political center. The war in Ukraine, along with perpetual congressional gridlock, has sidelined this critical agenda of domestic repair. To be sure, the provision of military and economic assistance to Ukraine enjoys an unusual level of bipartisan support. Nonetheless, time is not on the side of bipartisanship, which is poised to dissipate as the November midterms near. The war, coming on top of the supply disruptions caused by the pandemic, is contributing to economic conditions that are playing into the hands of “America first” Republicans. Inflation is at 40-year highs; the price of gas, food, and other essential items keeps climbing. The stock market is swooning amid talk of an impending recession. The war in Ukraine is hardly the sole cause of these economic tribulations, but it is certainly playing an important role. It is also soaking up the Biden administration’s precious time and political capital. With these economic conditions as a backdrop, the midterms are poised to put the House and, probably, the Senate in Republican hands. The complexion of the Republican cohort that would call the shots in Congress is impossible to predict, but the party is likely to tilt further in the “America first” direction. J. D. Vance, buoyed by an endorsement from Trump, recently won a hotly contested Senate primary in Ohio. His views of the war in Ukraine may be emblematic of what is to come: “I think it’s ridiculous that we are focused on this border in Ukraine. I got
to be honest with you, I don’t really care what happens to Ukraine one way or the other.” It is worth keeping in mind that Trump withheld military assistance to Ukraine to extract political dirt on Biden, regularly insulted NATO allies, and expressed interest in withdrawing the United States from NATO. He, or some other “America first” Republican, could well return to such wayward policies if elected. A political or constitutional crisis of some sort is also a possibility. Just before Putin invaded Ukraine, a poll revealed that 64 percent of Americans fear that U.S. democracy is “in crisis and at risk of failing.” This is all to say that electoral outcomes in Ohio may have at least as much impact on European security and the future of liberal democracy as military outcomes in the Donbas. Europe, too, needs to keep a watchful eye on the domestic front. Europeans have demonstrated remarkable generosity in hosting millions of Ukrainian refugees, but the warm welcome may wear thin and could well produce a political backlash; previous waves of immigration have strengthened the hand of illiberal populists. In the meantime, food shortages in Africa exacerbated by the war in Ukraine could trigger a humanitarian crisis and confront Europeans with yet another influx of desperate migrants. Persistent inflation and the prospect of energy shortages next winter could also weaken Europe’s impressive resolve in standing up to Russia. As Robert Habeck, Germany’s economy minister, warned earlier this month, “We are in a gas crisis. Gas is a scarce commodity from now on. . . . This will affect industrial production and become a big burden for many consumers.” Italy’s government is already wobbling due to internal disputes over the provision of arms to Ukraine and German leaders continue to squabble over the delivery of heavy weapons. Emmanuel Macron may have been reelected in France in April, but some 40 percent of the electorate
NATO members will have their hands full dealing with the war in Ukraine, managing fraught relations with Russia, reinforcing the alliance’s eastern flank, and after the fighting ends, participating in post-conflict reconstruction.
voted for Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate who is a fan of Putin and pledged to withdraw her country from NATO’s military command. That Macron lost an absolute majority in the lower house of parliament is a further sign of popular discontent. Le Pen’s party, the National Rally, surged from eight to 89 seats. The West’s sanctions against Moscow, even as they take a toll on the global economy, have so far failed to have the intended effect in Russia. Because of the soaring price of crude, Russia continues to enjoy ample oil revenues. And even though the value of the ruble plunged when Russia launched its invasion in February, it has rebounded and recently hit a seven-year high against the dollar. The United States and its G-7 partners agreed earlier this week to pursue further measures to restrict trade with Russia and also discussed putting a price cap on purchases of Russian oil to ease inflationary pressures and lower Russia’s revenues. The potential impact of these next steps remains uncertain. Yes, the West must stand by Ukraine, punish Russian expansionism, and defend against further acts of aggression. But it also needs to weigh these priorities against the imperative of preventing illiberal populists from taking power on both sides of the Atlantic. The price of gas in Ohio or Bavaria seems of trivial relevance against the backdrop of Ukraine’s valiant fight for its freedom. But managing the war in Ukraine also means navigating the dangerous shoals of American and European politics. Ukraine would certainly not be the beneficiary should “America first” Republicans come to power in the United States or pro-Moscow populists gain ground in Europe. It would indeed be cruel irony if NATO succeeds in helping Kyiv thwart Putin’s predatory ambition only to see the Atlantic democracies fall prey to threats from within. Even as they send more howitzers and drones to Ukraine, NATO leaders need to pay close attention to the economic and political blowback from the war on their own societies. When they do so, they will better appreciate the need to facilitate a cease-fire and support Ukraine’s cause at the negotiating table. Moving from war to negotiations, of course, does not offer a quick fix to the economic dislocations produced by the conflict; sanctions against Russia could well remain in place for quite some time. But diplomacy ultimately offers the only pathway to easing the geopolitical tensions that continue to disrupt energy and food supplies and contribute to inflationary pressures.
EUROPE’S GRAY ZONE NATO members will have their hands full dealing with the war in Ukraine, managing fraught relations with Russia, reinforcing the alliance’s eastern flank, and after the
G7 leaders pose for a family photo during a NATO summit on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on March 2022 ,24. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/Pool
fighting ends, participating in post-conflict reconstruction. But they must also begin looking beyond the war and its immediate consequences to draw broader lessons. The conflict in Ukraine has made clear the need for fresh thinking about advancing security in Europe’s “gray zone,” the lands between NATO and Russia. Even as the war grinds on, a constructive conversation is emerging over Ukraine’s potential geopolitical status moving forward. How this issue evolves may provide a model for Georgia, Moldova, and other countries that have been looking to the West but may not be destined for NATO membership now that Russia has thrown down the gauntlet in Ukraine. Three intertwined approaches are taking shape to advance the security needs of countries in Europe’s gray zone. First, permanent neutrality offers these states a means of strengthening their sovereignty and independence while taking into consideration Russia’s objections to the further eastward enlargement of NATO. Ukraine embraced neutrality after it separated from the Soviet Union in 1991. It was not until 2019, in response to Russia’s 2014 land grab in Crimea and the Donbas, that Ukraine enshrined in its constitution its intention to join NATO. According to Putin, the prospect of Ukraine’s membership in the alliance played a role in his decision to invade again. In his February 24 address to the nation justifying the “special military operation,” Putin pointed to “the fundamental threats which irresponsible Western politicians created for Russia. . . . I am referring to the eastward expansion of NATO, which is moving its military infrastructure ever closer to the Russian border.” During the early weeks of
The conflict in Ukraine has made clear the need for fresh thinking about advancing security in Europe’s “gray zone,” the lands between NATO and Russia. the war, Kyiv seemed ready to embrace a return to neutrality. Should that outcome emerge as part of a negotiated settlement to the war, Ukraine’s neutrality may serve as model for the region. Second, neutrality would be accompanied by security assurances from a coalition of willing countries. Such assurances would fall short of the formal defense guarantees that would accompany NATO membership, but they would commit signatories to help maintain the security and nonaligned status of countries in Europe’s gray zone. These arrangements would go beyond previous levels of Western support, likely entailing additional military training and arms transfers during peacetime and robust military support should the states enjoying such assurances face attack. Ukraine again serves as a good model. NATO members are not sending troops to Ukraine to join the fight, but they
are providing Ukraine with the wherewithal to defend itself. When the war ends, Ukraine could well find itself in a state of armed neutrality, with ongoing economic and military support from NATO members strengthening its hand in the negotiations over territory that may well follow acease-fire. The third plank of security in the gray zone would be membership in the EU. Brussels has already granted Ukraine and Moldova candidate status, while Georgia is in the waiting room. Although accession negotiations can take a decade or perhaps longer, candidate status provides aspirants a political shot in the arm and gives their governments the leverage they need to tackle corruption and implement onerous economic and political reforms—key steps that Ukraine needs to take to extract itself from the oligarchic legacy of its past. EU membership would eventually mark formal institutional inclusion in the community of Atlantic democracies, while avoiding the provocation of Russia that would come with membership in NATO. As Putin put it recently when confronted with the prospect of Ukrainian entry into the EU, “We have nothing against it. It’s their sovereign decision to join economic unions or not. . . . It’s their business, the business of the Ukrainian people.” In this scenario, NATO would take in Finland and Sweden, and the alliance would eventually integrate aspirants in the Balkans. But it would go no further. Setting a transparent limit on NATO’s eastward enlargement and instead looking to the EU to extend its reach into Europe’s gray zone may finally enable the West and Russia to set aside an issue that has bedeviled their relationship since NATO enlargement began soon after the end of the Cold War. Even if Putin has used NATO expansion as a pretext for his land grabs, greater clarity on NATO’s future could help dampen rivalry between Russia and the West.
Although the Russian invasion of Ukraine constitutes a traditional act of territorial aggression, it also reveals just how complicated the security agenda has become.
THE EUROPEAN PILLAR The war in Ukraine has been a geopolitical wake-up call for Europe—and NATO should capitalize on this moment. Europe has made numerous false starts over the years at acquiring more geopolitical strength and responsibility, but this time, thanks to Russia, the effort may well yield more impressive results. Russian aggression has already prompted Europeans to make new and substantial investments in military capability. Germany has allocated 100 billion euros to upgrade its dilapidated military and has agreed to meet NATO’s benchmark of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense. Other European nations have announced sizable increases in their defense budgets. Translating these investments into war-fighting capability will take time and require coordination across national boundaries and between NATO and the EU. But these investments, and Germany’s turnaround in particular, have the potential to be a game-changer, finally endowing Europe with the greater geopolitical heft that that it needs in a world in which great-power rivalry is back. The United States should keep the pressure on its allies and work with them to take full advantage of their new readiness to shoulder greater defense burdens. A more capable Europe will make for a stronger Atlantic partnership. Democrats and Republicans alike have long complained that NATO needs a sturdier European pillar. Whatever party is in power in Washington, the Atlantic link will be in better shape if Europe brings more geopolitical heft to the table. With Russia now threatening NATO’s eastern flank and tensions in the western Pacific also putting new demands on U.S. resources, Washington will appreciate having more European capability. And even though a renewed Russian threat will keep U.S. forces in Europe for the foreseeable future, Europe needs to be able to act on its own when necessary.
INSTITUTIONS FIT FOR PURPOSE Although the Russian invasion of Ukraine constitutes a traditional act of territorial aggression, it also reveals just how complicated the security agenda has become. The implications of the conflict cut across a wide variety of issues. Military affairs and intelligence are front and center, but so is energy security. Stepping away from reliance on Russian fossil fuels may be a strategic necessity, but it also has negative effects on climate change as Europe reopens shuttered coal-fired electricity plants and as energy producers pump more oil and gas. Cybersecurity, food secu-
U.S. President Joe Biden is greeted by Bavaria’s State Premier Markus Soeder at Franz-JosefStrauss airport in Munich ahead of the G7 summit, which will take place in the Bavarian alpine resort of Elmau Castle, Germany, June 2022 ,25. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle
rity, supply chains, migration, relations with China, the international payments system—the war has left few issues untouched. Transatlantic institutions need to adapt accordingly. NATO can handle some, but certainly not all, of these cross-cutting issues. It has been quite adept at integrating cybersecurity into its agenda, and the alliance has begun a constructive conversation about the geopolitical consequences of China’s rise. Notably, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea are attending the Madrid Summit as observers. But on energy security, economic sanctions, digital governance, technological supply lines, climate, and a host of other issues, the EU is the more appropriate interlocutor. The United Kingdom, however, no longer has a seat at the EU table in Brussels, further complicating the task of creating transatlantic institutions adapted to global interdependence. Deeper linkages between NATO and the EU offer one avenue for better integrating the geopolitical and the geoeconomic. Another option would be to establish a new transatlantic council charged with addressing policy issues in a way that transcends and breaks down institutional and bureaucratic barriers. This body could include representatives from NATO and the EU as well as select member states, providing oversight of a dynamic and diverse trans-
atlantic agenda. The recently established U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council provides a good example of an institutional innovation aimed at enabling policy to keep up with technological change. The fallout from the war makes amply clear how profoundly globalization and interdependence are creating the need for new forms of transatlantic governance and cooperation. Of equal importance, any new oversight body needs to closely monitor the increasingly intimate connections between foreign policy and domestic politics. Should leaders on either side of the Atlantic overlook such connections, they do so at their own peril and that of transatlantic solidarity. NATO remains an essential pillar of an enduring transatlantic community of shared interests and values. It has amply demonstrated its relevance, efficacy, and unity in marshaling a resolute response to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. It is now time for NATO to start moving toward a cease-fire and diplomatic endgame in Ukraine, in no small part to maintain transatlantic solidarity and guard against homegrown threats to liberal democracy that may pose an even greater threat to the Atlantic community than Putin. This pivot needs to be part of a broader effort to build a transatlantic architecture fit for purpose amid the interdependence of the twenty-first century. This article was originally published by Foreign Affairs.
Iranian Militias to Expand Further On Any New Attack in Northern Syria
Security Barriers, Weapons Shipments, and Israeli Strike Fears By Jiwan Soz – Qamishli
further into Syrian territory. How is that possible? At the moment, Iranian forces on Syrian territory and the With Moscow preoccupied with the Ukrainian war and local militias that support them refuse to share power in the withdrawal of some of its forces and senior military their areas of control with any other forces, even those leaders from Syrian territory after an intervention that from the Syrian regime’s army. In the Homs countrylasted for years and prevented the fall of Syrian President side, Iranian forces and militias launched a large-scale Bashar al-Assad, the Iranian intervention in Syria gained security campaign after installing additional checkpoints more space after the protests demanding his departure to monitor pedestrian and car movement without exerupted in mid-March of 2011. Moscow and Tehran plaining why. later intervened and sided with Assad as the main sup- Local sources in the Homs countryside town of Al-Qarporters, but today the situation is different, and Tehran is yatayn told Majalla: “Iranian forces and their militias are attempting to capitalize on Russia’s concern and expand heavily present at the town’s entrances and exits, as they
have been meticulously searching pedestrians and their cars for days in order to secure weapon supply routes for their militias in other Syrian areas.” In addition to Al-Qaryatayn, the militias supported by Tehran have concentrated in the ancient city of Palmyra, also located in the Homs countryside, where it has taken the grain silos building, located 10 kilometers east of the city, as a new headquarters for its members, especially given its location on the Palmyra-Deir ez-Zor international road.
MILITIAS ARE BIGGER THAN STATES
Syrian government forces stand in Kobajjep some 40 kilometres west of Deir Ezzor after taking control of the town as they advance towards Deir Ezzor in the battle against Islamic State (IS) group jihadists on September 5, 2017. (Photo credit should read GEORGE OURFALIAN/AFP/ Getty Images)
Wejdan Abdul Rahman, a political analyst and expert on Iranian affairs, believes that, “the Iranian forces and militias backed by Tehran have more power than the state’s power, which includes not only Syria but also neighboring Iraq.” “For example, Iraq held parliamentary elections about ten months ago, but the government has yet to be formed because militias loyal to Tehran on Iraqi soil refuse to allow this. Instead, they impose themselves by force of arms and also target US bases in the Kurdistan region, such as Erbil and Sulaymaniyah, as well as the Iraqi capital, Baghdad,” Abdul Rahman told Majalla.
OVERSIGHT OF MILITIA SECURITY AND WEAPONS SHIPMENTS “There is no doubt that the inspection that is taking place in the countryside of Homs and other Syrian regions is being done to enhance the security of the Iranian presence in these areas and to provide security for arms shipments because they were previously targeted while passing through several roads, which is why these militias are checking the identity of passersby today,” he added. The Iranian-backed Fatimiyoun militia, as well as the Lebanese Hezbollah militia, took over the task of monitoring their security checkpoints in the countryside of Homs, without any role for the local elements who joined the Syrian militias backed by Tehran, according to what military sources revealed to Majalla. In conjunction with the intensification of these militias’ checkpoints in the Homs countryside, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights revealed that these militias have detained at least 30 of their local members who hold Syrian citizenship, despite their refusal to participate in the process of
In addition to imposing security control through force of arms, Iranian forces and militias supported by them are implementing demographic changes in their areas of control within Syrian territory. clearing the Syrian Badia of ISIS members. According to other local sources, at least 42 local members were detained by militias loyal to Tehran after refusing to participate in a military operation in the Syrian desert.
THE ASSAD REGIME NO LONGER CONTROLS THESE AREAS The Iranian militias are combing the Al-Bukamal desert and two surrounding areas for elements of the ISIS organization, which frequently targets these militias and seeks recruits from the Syrian regime’s army in those areas. The arrest of dozens of local members by the Iranian militia was interpreted by Abdul Rahman as “a step that indicates the Assad regime’s loss of control over those areas.”
ASSAD ENTRUSTED THE MILITARY DUTIES TO IRANIAN MILITIAS According to Abdul Rahman, “Assad has entrusted the military duties in those areas to groups affiliated with the Iranian regime, especially since his survival in power has been based on the presence of Iranian forces on Syrian territory, as well as militias supported by them.” “The fact that these militias were founded by Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the so-called Quds Force, who was killed more than two and a half years ago, demonstrates their strength. Soleimani was able to bring Assad to Iran and sit with him instead of the then Foreign Minister, Muhammad Javad Zarif, who resigned later before returning to his duties,” he continued.
In addition to imposing security control through force of arms, Iranian forces and militias supported by them are implementing demographic changes in their areas of control within Syrian territory. According to Majalla and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, they have relocated the families of their fighters to areas in the countryside of Hama Governorate. According to the sources, over the past few days, the Afghan Fatimiyoun militia has settled some of the families of its fighters in homes located in the villages of Sheikh Hilal, Al-Rahjan and Al-Shakouzeh in the northeastern countryside of Hama. These are villages whose members belonged to the Al-Mawali clan, which left that area when those militias regained control over them after clan members had supported a military operation launched by the Syrian regime on those areas earlier.
According to local sources, at least 42 local members were detained by militias loyal to Tehran after refusing to participate in a military operation in the Syrian desert.
The Afghan Fatimiyoun militia has previously settled the families of its fighters in several displaced areas, including the city of Palmyra and its countryside, as well as other areas in the countryside of Deir ez-Zor, the eastern countryside of Aleppo, and the vicinity of the Sayeda Zainab area south of Damascus. “The demographic change is a natural thing for an occupying force that has the power and the ability through which it tries to compensate for the population ratio, because we know that the majority of the Syrian population is of the Sunni component,” Abdul Rahman said in this context. “As a result, in the areas it controls, the Iranian regime is attempting to alter demographics, as was done in Umm al-Sakhr in Iraq when Tehran expelled Sunni residents and replaced them with another component,” he added. He also emphasized that, “In my opinion, neither the Assad regime nor the Iraqi government can change this policy, especially since Western countries appear to agree to these Iranian interventions, even if they can limit their scope.” In conjunction with these movements, Iranian forces and militias supported by them transferred large quantities of weapons and ammunition to fortified sites within cellars in Tamr’s old market area, near the city’s military airport. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “operations of storing weapons within fortified underground sites are taking place not only in the city of Tal Palmyra, but also in other Syrian areas lo-
Forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar alAssad flash victory signs after advancing into alMaasaraniyeh in Aleppo. Credit: Reuters
Iraqi Shiite fighters of the Popular Mobilization Forces secure the border area with Syria in al-Qaim in Iraq’s Anbar province, opposite AlBukamal in Syria’s Deir Ezzor region, on November 12, 2018. (AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP)
cated west of the Euphrates River.”
ARMS ARE BEING TRANSFERRED TO GAIN MORE CONTROL AND TO AVOID ISRAELI TARGETING As the arms shipments reached the countryside of Southern Raqqa, Majalla obtained information from private sources stating that these militias are transferring large quantities of their weapons from central Syria to the north of the country to exploit any Turkish attack that Ankara may launch against the Syrian Democratic Forces, known for short as the SDF, as the arms shipments arrived in conjunction with Tehran’s announcement this week that it would not oppose any new Turkish attack that might target the SDF. According to Abdul Rahman, “Sending weapons is a natural matter, given that the Iranian regime wants to protect the Assad regime, and the latter requires these militias, particularly in light of the Russian-Ukrainian war and the withdrawal of some Russian forces from Syrian territory.” As a result, Tehran saw a need to fill that vacuum, in which it saw an opportunity to occupy more Syrian areas previously under Moscow’s control and expand its influence, which necessitates more weapons.” “On the other hand, Israel has threatened, via Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, that it will target the head of the octopus in Tehran rather than its arms in the region, and as a result, the Iranian regime is attempting to strengthen its arms in the region and thus sends weapons to it,” he continued.
“The Iranian forces and militias backed by Tehran have more power than the state’s power, which includes not only Syria but also neighboring Iraq.” Despite Iran’s call for Turkey to halt the military operation dubbed “Spring of Peace” by Ankara in the fourth quarter of 2019, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian expressed last Monday during a press conference in Ankara with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, his country’s “understanding” of the necessity of Turkish forces carrying out an operation against Kurdish fighters in the Syrian Democratic Forces coalition, which includes, along with the Kurds, Arab, Syriac-Assyrian and Armenian armed groups. These militias also transported weapons and ammunition, in addition to fighters, to areas in the countryside of Deir ez-Zor near the Syrian Democratic Forces, implying that any Turkish attack could coincide with further Iranian expansion. * Jiwan Soz is a researcher and journalist who focuses on Syrian and Turkish affairs and minorities in the Middle East. He is also a member of Syndicat National des Journalistes (National Syndicate of Journalists [SNJ]). He tweets at @JiwanSoz1
How Free Trade Can Fight Inflation More Competition Means Lower Prices
By Gary Hufbauer, Yilin Wang Over a year into U.S. President Joe Biden’s first term, the United States is still fighting former President Donald Trump’s economic wars. Biden’s rhetoric is less extreme and more polite, but his policies nevertheless channel his predecessor’s harsh isolationism: he has maintained sky-high tariffs on imports from China, preserved quotas on imports of steel and aluminum, and kept tariffs on imported washing machines. In a climate of steep inflation, these policies impose real costs.
Tariff-induced price increases are passed on to consumers and businesses through higher domestic costs for imported goods, resulting in more expensive clothes, footwear, dairy products, and other goods for everyday Americans. These additional costs aren’t an academic fiction; they take real money out of real consumers’ pockets. Such pain calls for a change in policy. Economic protectionism may not have caused the recent bout of inflation in the United States, but removing or reducing tariffs could help end it.
A two percentage point reduction in import barriers across a broad array of goods could reduce inflation by around 1.3 percentage points, saving the average U.S. household nearly 800$ over the next year. Biden has said his “top priority is getting prices under control.” If he is serious about doing so, he should start by removing tariff and nontariff trade barriers.
NEW ADMINISTRATION, SAME PROTECTIONISM Biden has done more than maintain Trump’s protectionist trade policies. In addition to continuing his predecessor’s trade war tariffs, Biden has doubled down on so-called Buy America restrictions—rules that wall off federal purchases from foreign competition—cloaking his actions in the mantle of patriotism. Such policies signal that foreign firms, even those based in NATO countries, are unwelcome suppliers not just for the U.S. government but for ordinary American consumers. Biden has also failed to waive the Jones Act—a payoff to the U.S. Merchant Marine that prevents foreign vessels from carrying merchandise between U.S. ports— thereby imposing high shipping costs on Hawaiian and Puerto Rican families and worsening shipping congestion.
U.S. President Joe Biden at a factory in Detroit, Michigan, November 2021. (Jonathan Ernst / Reuters)
Biden’s protectionist bent also informs his administration’s China policy. At a press conference in May, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen suggested that some Trump-era tariffs on Chinese imports “impose more harm on consumers and businesses” and do little to further U.S. interests. Yet U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai has consistently emphasized the need for a “durable, effective strategy” to compete with China, one that includes tariffs. Compounding the issue is the insistence by some politicians, such as Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Josh Hawley, that any trade with China is unpatriotic, with no distinction drawn between pillowcases and high-tech lasers. Unfortunately, Biden’s opposition to free trade coincides with the highest inflation rate in decades, exacerbated by the COVID19- pandemic, supply chain woes, and soaring energy costs. Global fertilizer prices, for example, have more than doubled from a year ago. World steel prices reached historic highs last year and could rise even further since Russia destroyed Ukraine’s giant Azovstal plant and sanctions placed Moscow’s exports squarely behind a Western embargo. Trump’s—and now Biden’s—steel tariffs and quotas will only add to inflation by raising the price of automobiles, refrigerators, plumbing fixtures, bridges, and much more. Although domestic steel makers may insist that such tariffs protect U.S. jobs, American steel users pay an extra 650,000$ per year for every steel job saved—an unacceptable cost. Meanwhile, penalty duties on Canadian lumber add an extra 18,600$ to the price of the average newly constructed U.S. home. Between 2017 and 2021, lumber imports from Canada
Unfortunately, Biden’s opposition to free trade coincides with the highest inflation rate in decades, exacerbated by the COVID- 19 pandemic, supply chain woes, and soaring energy costs. plummeted from 5.9$ billion to 185$ million. The list goes on. Even carve-outs designed to address foreign complaints about U.S. protectionism have made little difference. Some countries have successfully negotiated permanent exemptions from U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs in exchange for limits on other exports to the United States, but such quotas do little to increase the supply of raw materials available to U.S. steelusing industries. Brazil and South Korea, for example, agreed to quotas in 2018, but their steel exports to the United States remain well below pre-tariff levels.
TRADE AND INFLATION Given the economic costs of protectionism, trade liberalization must be a central part of any anti-inflation policy. After all, cutting tariffs and removing import quotas will lower the costs of imported goods purchased by U.S. firms and households. At the same time, cheaper foreign goods will put downward pressure on domestic prices for competing merchandise. Since low-income households consume a larger proportion of their earnings than high-income households, any tariff reduction would also disproportionately benefit the most vulnerable U.S. families. A good place to start is with the equivalent of a two-percentage point tariff reduction, which could reduce inflation by roughly 1.3 percentage points over the next year. To achieve this goal, Biden should eliminate nearly all of Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum and Chinese imports. Biden should also provide emergency relief from duties on key products such as fertilizer and lumber. Although a 1.3 percentage point reduction might seem small while inflation rages at 8.3 percent, the relief would not be trivial. In concrete terms, the average U.S. household would save an additional 800$ over the next year. And in more normal years, when inflation is running near the Federal Reserve’s annual target of two percent, a 1.3 percentage point reduction would be significant.
But the Biden administration could be even more ambitious. If Washington took additional measures, including relaxing Buy America restrictions and lowering peak most-favored-nation (MFN) tariffs—those above 20 percent—to a maximum of ten percent, it could reduce the average tariff burden by 4.2 percentage points and decrease inflation by two percentage points, all while still leaving many barriers in place. In particular, our analysis assumes that the United States will retain its limits on imported services—for instance, requiring foreign professionals to undergo onerous licensing processes and preventing foreign ships from transporting merchandise between U.S. ports. Although such barriers sharply raise the price of many vital services, the current political climate would make it extremely difficult to eliminate them. Moreover, if Biden wants to deliver quick relief for consumers, he could prioritize reducing tariffs on imported goods that figure prominently in household expenditures, including dairy products, clothing, and footwear. By capping MFN tariffs
Although eminently sensible in economic and geopolitical terms, trade liberalization will inevitably face challenges from business and labor groups
on these products at ten percent, Biden could visibly lower advertised prices for everyday merchandise sold by Amazon, Walmart, and other major retail outlets. Again, such a policy would primarily benefit low-income households since they spend a higher share of their income on basic goods. Separately, Biden could ask Congress for authority to suspend tariffs or duties for 18 months on any product that the president determines is in short supply, starting with infant formula, fertilizer, and lumber. To assuage legislativebranch fears about an executive power grab, the law could automatically expire if annual inflation drops below three percent within 18 months and contain a provision allowing Congress to override the president. Taken together, these policies would burnish Biden’s anti-inflation credentials and be welcomed by U.S. consumers as prices drop at retail outlets.
LIBERALIZE GEOPOLITICS Beyond combating inflation, trade liberalization can also serve U.S. geopolitical objectives. Protectionist sentiments, for instance, will inevitably undermine two of Biden’s major international initiatives: the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), which aims to counter China’s economic statecraft, and the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council (TTC), which seeks to coordinate transatlantic policy on commercial issues. As long as domestic opposition to free trade takes new access to U.S. markets off the table in negotiations, these signature initiatives must increasingly rely on U.S. security commitments to encourage participation. This unspoken tradeoff may not work for countries that already have military
Port of Seattle, Washington, June 2021 ,15 (iStock/Mark Hatfield)
Workers prepare a container at the port in Qingdao, China’s eastern Shandong province STR/AFP via Getty( )Images
alliances with the United States or for those that may not harbor acute fears of Chinese expansion, such as Indonesia and Malaysia. With these practical constraints, the IPEF and TTC may well prove insufficient substitutes for existing trade and investment agreements, such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership—the agreement Trump ditched early in his presidency—and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, China’s lead entry in the regional trade sweepstakes. After all, Biden is asking foreign partners to accept U.S. norms on labor and minority rights, gender equality, environmental rules, public corruption, state-owned enterprises, artificial intelligence, digital practices, data privacy, and much more in exchange for little except broad and unspecified security assurances. This bargain may not sit well with domestic constituencies in partner countries more concerned about bread-and-butter issues than geopolitics. Trade liberalization, by contrast, would open up a host of new possibilities. Biden could, for instance, offer concrete benefits to partners by lifting steel and aluminum tariffs and quotas, relaxing Buy America rules to expand market access in government procurement, or lowering dairy and clothing tariffs. Doing so would demonstrate political goodwill and enhance foreign support for U.S. initiatives.
THE INEVITABLE BACKLASH Although eminently sensible in economic and geopolitical terms, trade liberalization will inevitably face challenges from
Advocates for protectionism oppose free trade in the name of “economic resilience,” but their policies come at a high cost— one that is ultimately borne by average consumers. business and labor groups. Beneficiaries of protectionism, after all, have strong allies in Congress and in the Biden administration. Biden himself described Buy America rules as a cornerstone of his foreign policy, and major U.S. corporations, particularly construction firms and defense contractors, stand to benefit from the rule’s provisions. Still, relaxing such provisions could save the U.S. government and taxpayers an estimated 100$ billion per year. Similar savings would come from reducing steel tariffs, quotas, and a large array of penalty duties and tariff peaks. Advocates for protectionism oppose free trade in the name of “economic resilience,” but their policies come at a high cost—one that is ultimately borne by average consumers. Either inflation is Biden’s number one domestic priority or it is not. But if it is, the value of tackling trade protectionism is obvious. This article was originally published by Foreign Affairs.
Arab World: Utilizing Diplomacy to Serve Development
By Abdelkader Zaoui
Arab countries, just like most countries in the world, are undergoing quantitative developments and profound qualitative transformations at all political, economic, social and cultural levels, and at a faster pace in many cases. The old policies and the accompanying various support measures are no longer able not only to address these transformations but also to keep pace with the speed of their fluctuations.
The old policies and the accompanying various support measures are no longer able not only to address these transformations but also to keep pace with the speed of their fluctuations .
In view of the severity of the problems that have multiplied and proliferated due to the incapability of tackling these transformations, several Arab governments had the courage to admit the limitations and even the failure of approaches and policies that were previously adopted. These policies had come into force either by a sovereign decision or by the recommendation and cooperation with international financial institutions. The failure was embodied in a set of facts, most notably: Examining the goals set in these documents, it grows clear that they are very ambitious. * The exacerbation of spatial gaps among They revolve in their entirety around the purregions, as wealth and its sources, as well suit of a rupture with heavy reliance on the as the intensity of economic activity have proceeds of exporting primary materials of become concentrated in specific and limited various kinds in favor of supporting producregions. Meanwhile, other “unlucky” and tive sectors with high added-value. The goal remote regions have become marginalized is to diversify sources of income, achieve a and depleted physically and in terms of hu- kind of justice in its distribution, and raise the man resources. annual growth rate to levels that would secure the provision of a sufficient number of job * The widening of social disparities, evident opportunities for the youth who represent the in the exacerbation of poverty, which has majority of the population of Arab countries. come to affect large segments of the oncecalled middle class for the benefit of a small The keenness on securing the successful im32
minority that has become extremely wealthy, benefiting mostly from the spoils of those in authority. Some governments did not only recognize limitations and failures. Being aware of the seriousness of the issues and threats that these differences pose to peace and security in society, they began searching for means of dealing with these emerging and urgent data. Eventually, they ended up crystallizing new and comprehensive economic and development models and visions, most of which amounted to practical plans for integrated and sustainable development. These visions aim to free energies and regain once-lost confidence, especially those whose success was associated to achieving certain goals. Accordingly, they were restricted to being implemented as per specific deadlines.
plementation of the various programs in these new development policies prompted the concerned governments to deem them a national workshop and a public affair that everyone should be involved in achieving it. These governments were also instigated to mobilize all available human capacities, financial resources, as well as all internal and external state institutions to ensure a successful implementation.
Nevertheless, since the end of the nineties of the past century, there has been a growing awareness of the great role that diplomacy can play in the economic policies and development plans of many Arab countries. Some of these countries have not only the advantages and benefits of engaging in the trend of globalization and the wave of free trade agreements, but also the negative repercussions of that engagement if it does not go hand in hand with Even though several Arab governments do not intelligent, conscious and effective diplomatic lack the financial capabilities required to have activity. huge sovereign investment funds and credit facilities that can be used quickly, they seemed Of course, a diplomatic apparatus that keeps determined to involve external entities in their pace with the rapid developments in the interdevelopment efforts, either as financiers, in- national arena and is well-versed in science and vestors, or an export market, or to attract tour- knowledge is best able to head constructive and ism. Therefore, it was no surprise to mention positive negotiations in order to market prothe role of Arab diplomatic mechanisms at all jects, attract foreign investments, and expand levels in helping to attract the external entities, the scope of foreign markets for its country’s and to promote the diverse projects included in products. It is also capable of persuading immiits visions and models, and the advantages and grant talents and brains to return to their countemptations they provide. tries and facilitate the establishment of promising capacities of developed countries to learn, There is no doubt that this role required of Arab develop skills and contribute to the transfer of diplomatic institutions is a new and major chal- technology. lenge. Ever since these countries gained their independence, their diplomacies have been Have some Arab diplomatic institutions manused to dealing almost completely with critical aged to attain this level? political issues. These matters have been pri- The low volume of economic and investment oritized in the agendas of Arab countries and cooperation among the Arab countries, the their diplomatic activity is at the expense of pocket-sized volumes of inter-Arab trade, and other issues related to the economy and trade, the obstacles facing the establishment of a true which should have been given priority. Arab free trade zone, which was bound by the agreement establishing it with thousands of exThe reason behind the dominance of political ceptions that emptied it of its content, are all inissues over Arab diplomatic interests is that dications that Arab diplomacy has not yet lived some of these issues are chronic, haunting and up to expectations. fateful for a number of Arab countries or for the future of the entire region. Examples in- If we also consider the degree of political clude the issues of the continuous foreign oc- and security restrictions that prevent a rapid cupation of the lands of some countries, and flow of capital, and an easy movement of the constant threat to the territorial integrity labor and tourism, it is certain that there is of other countries, not to mention the degree still a long way to go ahead of Arab diploof international and regional interventions and macy, which does not lack competencies and their continuous violations of the sovereignty capabilities, but lacks instead the sovereign political will. of several countries. 33
Nevertheless, since the end of the nineties of the past century, there has been a growing awareness of the great role that diplomacy can play in the economic policies and development plans of many Arab countries .
Two Scenes between East, West Levantine Masculinity, Abolition of Right to Abortion are Killing Women By: Sama Mamdouh El-Sheikh Take two scenes that are worthy of contemplation and comparison. There is an Arab scene with the following names: Shaima Jamal, Lubna Mansour, Iman Arsheed, and Naira Ashraf. They were the victims in a series of murders, which provoked rage followed by a cultural/communal division at a crisis moment on the Arab and global levels. Examining the social media space, the features of a real Arab societal crisis are unraveled. Its severity varies from one country to another. Nonetheless, it is a disparity that confirms that the values and criteria that can be invoked in evaluating facts are a reflection of the difference over the ex-
tent to which the Arab culture needs a deep reform, as well as a sharper difference about the destination of this reform and its reference points. The second scene is from one side of the Atlantic when US President Joe Biden warned that abolishing the right to abortion puts the lives of American women at risk. On the other side of the Atlantic, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz expressed his concern about the decision of the US Supreme Court to abolish the right to abortion in the country, stressing that “women’s rights are under threat.” Spain, meanwhile, has been experiencing protests in solidarity with similar demonstrations in other capitals to denounce a bill that significantly reduces the right to abortion, which the con-
A person holds a sign during a protest against the ruling by Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal that imposes a near-total ban on abortion, outside the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium November 11, 2020. REUTERS/ Yves Herman
servative Spanish government wants to ratify. In 2021, Élisabeth Moreno, the French Minister Delegate for Gender Equality, condemned “in the strongest terms” the screening on a private television channel in France of the US movie, “Unplanned,” which denounced abortion. She considered that the channel that showed the film “made a mistake,” describing the film as “misleading the viewer beyond any doubt,” and that it “constitutes a hateful propaganda tool against abortion.” Produced by evangelical Christian studios, “Unplanned” tells the story of the transformation of a woman from providing birth control services to becoming an anti-abortion activist. Does this mean that women’s lives are threatened by both modernity and tradition?! Between Generalization and Specification At the heart of the scene is man’s relationship with woman. The latter is vocal in her accusation of the predominance of violence hovering over this relationship, which has become caught in the whirlwind of major economic, social and cultural changes. Women often end up paying the larger price. Arabs on social media have created a whirlpool of interpretations, throwing accusations at each other. These include masculinity, religious extremism, violence in drama series, economic crises, feminist discourse, social media, social failure ... until the last point in the list of impressionist judgments that summarize a societal division over what is acceptable within the framework of interpretation and what constitutes justification or even incitement. One method of specification is the focus of some on the fact that the connection between perpetrators with victims is a relationship (whether it was emotional or marital). In the book “In the Name of Love: Romantic Ideology and Its Victims” written and published by a group of psychiatrists at the University of Oxford, the authors point out that the prevailing explanations for a man’s murder of his wife go back to the “male possessiveness and jealousy,” in addition to another motive: love. The book denies male violence, but discusses the existence of another psychological motive behind the killing, as love and despair may push one party in the relationship to kill the other. According to the well-known American psychiatrist Park Dietz, other factors may push the partner to kill the other, most notably the fear of abandonment and loss. Those who kill because of this motive have emotionally disturbed personalities. A study by a British expert who researched 372 murders found there is a process that comprises eight stages that the murderer goes through before committing murder. She told BBC that “they relied in the search for the causes of the killing, on factors such as emotion and spontaneity,” and that “in view of all these cases, there is planning and determination.” The Similarity is an Explanation but not a Justification In March 2022, the Swiss news agency Swissinfo tackled the widespread interest in many French-speaking Swiss media about “crimes committed against women.” The term “femicide” entered the lexicon of our daily life years ago. More specifically, the word “Féminicide” was introduced to the French dictionary in 2015. Within a fair and objective framework, the term means
Nonetheless, it is a disparity that confirms that the values and criteria that can be invoked in evaluating facts are a reflection of the difference over the extent to which the Arab culture needs a deep reform. “the killing of women or girls in connection for being females.” Based on this specification, generalizing the phenomenon in other broader frameworks (political, cultural, or religious) may be a form of misleading in the interpretation of facts. In this regard, the European Institute for Gender Equality notes that “being aware of the motives and circumstances ... helps governments to better protect potential victims, as well as to punish and deter perpetrators.” Therefore, the discussions in the public space are not the way to stop the cycle of bloodshed, which may be related to crises of a more general nature, but part of it remains a “qualitative problem” that threatens the lives of women in particular. Globally, only 60% of femicides are committed in the private space. A recent study by the Swiss government showed that the vast majority of spousal homicides are committed by men (90%) with women victims (96%). In 2016, an analysis of violent deaths published by the Geneva-based NGO Small Arms Survey indicated that Switzerland was among the few developed countries with a significantly higher rate of homicides of women, of all kinds, than that of men. This is still applicable today. This similarity among the murder cases of women in Western societies means that there are global commonalities that may contribute to explaining the extent of the phenomenon in the two worlds. However, it does not justify its occurrence in our countries. The transformation brought about by modernity and reinforced by the globalization of the vocabulary and forms of the relationship between the sexes, means that modernization was not free of threats to the security and safety of women. This is no different from the danger posed by traditional cultures, even if the impact of the modernization threats, in terms of relative weight, is less than the danger represented by traditional cultures. A Carnival of Throwing Accusations Some of the reactions to the series of events in Egypt, Jordan and the UAE during a short period were swayed by biases that reconfirmed some certainties. One of the pre-prepared stances is to limit the causal relationship to one factor, foremost of which was politicization. The most obvious example may be what the Egyptian politician Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei wrote about the horrific murders in Arab societies, as he asked: “Where are we going?” ElBaradei considered
that the Egyptian society was losing a distinctive feature, as it was “a society that was largely free from violence and a sense of security and safety prevailed.” He cites reasons, including “many political, cultural, social and economic” ones, and places the phenomenon on the same side of the “difference in religion, sect. Certainly, they are phenomena that represent a violation of values that are almost unanimously agreed upon. However, it is a matter of an intellectual current to which he belongs (Liberalism), which barely refers to the fact that these crimes are a facet of the dearth of any inner moral impulse, and that it is impossible to separate it from religion, especially in Arab societies. In the context of politicization, ElBaradei refers to a “societal fragmentation in many countries of the Arab world,” without clearly referring to individual moral responsibility: the point of intersection between the rule of law and the moral foundation upon which the monotheistic religions were built. On the other hand, the public space is brimming with a discourse full of fallacies that utilize religious diction and its vocabulary to justify the transformation of the duties and rights of a Muslim man (especially the husband) into a license that seems legally justified to legitimize even the murder of women. In the face of warranted wrath - for example, as in the case of Naira, who was brutally murdered by a colleague - there was a justification that argued for the importance of the veil and its religious justification ... as if the veil alone protects the life of a Muslim woman!!! It is Everyone’s Mistake but Mine The disputes over the assessment of these events and what can contribute to their evaluation have reflected the predominance of settling accounts (ideological and social) at the expense of objective consideration of a problem, which is in one aspect an extension of a major global transformation. The problem, on the other hand, is a scene of conflict among traditions, values, and patterns of social organization that have shattered and have not changed naturally, and the new is creeping in to replace the old. It is worth noting that many Arab-speaking Western media directed
However, it is a matter of an intellectual current to which he belongs (Liberalism), which barely refers to the fact that these crimes are a facet of the dearth of any inner moral impulse, and that it is impossible to separate it from religion, especially in Arab societies.
to an Arabic-speaking audience published several analyzes and readings, most of which were characterized by a clear presence of the voices of scholars and specialists, especially in the fields of humanities. These reports were also an acknowledgment that the killing of women takes place “there” just like it takes place “here.” While there is a consistent moral and ideological standard (even if it reflects the difference in many values), the balance between analysis and evaluation is not absent. On the other hand, a significant part of the public discourse in the Arab media (traditional and social) is the affirmation of the limits of social and cultural retrenchment that preceded these facts. Some of the most vocal voices have been of those who insist on drawing a stereotype that includes an overwhelming generalization: “Arabs kill their women!” The absence of objectivity was also characterized by the reference to what could be considered the responsibility of economic and social factors and the potential impact of violence in drama series and the effect of the so-called “masculine culture,” in a way that almost eliminates the individual responsibility of the perpetrators at all levels: legal, moral and legitimate. What might be considered “compulsions” or pressures on perpetrators—regardless of the accuracy of the effect of these factors—remain means of interpretation and understanding and can never be accepted as justifications for murder. Perhaps the phenomenon that deserves a separate pause is what we might call the female “pyramid-climbers,” a term I coined in contrast to the famous American term: the (male) “pyramid-climbers.” The term “pyramid climbers” refers to ambitious people who act in a selfish and harmful manner towards their social environment without any appreciation for social considerations. A consider-
Pro-choice and antiabortion both demonstrate outside the United States Supreme Court as the court hears arguments over a challenge to a Texas law that bans abortion after six weeks in Washington, U.S., November 1, 2021. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein
able number of these people were willing to give up any social, human or moral responsibilities - without the slightest mercy – in return for a thousand dollars in salary increase that would make them move from one state to another, leaving behind their entire social surroundings. These people have become a symbol of the cruelty of the modern age human being, who is only motivated by absolute expediency. In the recent murder cases, the (female) “pyramid climbers” who only care about their ambitions made an appearance. It goes without saying that no blood shedding is ever justified, even if it was the blood of the female “pyramid climbers”!! The Victims of Abortion and of Its Prohibition One of the many surprising revelations in the book: “Religion and the American Presidency” (Rozell, Mark J. and Gleaves Whitney. Palgrave Macmillan, 2018) is that the US President Donald Trump exploited in his election campaign an “invisible” factor to win the votes of one million Catholics!! As the book narrates, there was a strong feeling among many Catholics that the core elements of Obamacare’s health plan intrude on religious freedoms. Obamacare regulations have forced Catholic charities to pay for contraceptives, in contravention of the beliefs of many devout Catholics. These Catholics understood that had Hillary Clinton won the presidency, such payments would continue. Therefore, Trump won nearly a million Catholic votes! Forward to the present, when the US judiciary revoked a woman’s right to abortion, it was turning the page on decades of granting women what the conservative US right called the “right to kill.” It is one of the many faces of the American division (which recently had its counterpart in our Arab countries) over the lim-
its of rights, duties, permissible and forbidden things. It ends up exploding in a “clash of values” whenever something calls for alignment. The US court overturned the historic decision known as “Roe v. Wade” issued in 1973 to guarantee a woman’s right to abortion, and now rendered an opinion that said that every state could allow or restrict the procedure as it saw fit, as was the case before the 1970s. Many commentators in the Arab public space emphasized that “Arabs kill their women” because of the rejection of complete equality between the sexes. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz considered that the road towards this equality around the world is still long. He added that “the rights of women are threatened and we must defend them decisively,” praising the German parliament’s decision on the same day to repeal Section 219a of the German Criminal Code, which had prohibited the advertising of abortions. The substantial reactions in the West - official and unofficial - in protest against the abolition of the right to abortion in the USA confirm that the decision threatens the life of the woman. Almost no one indicates that abortion itself is a crime against fetuses, which means that the answer will not be unanimous to questions such as: Who kills women? Who kills fetuses in abortions? In contrast, Democratic-led US states such as New York, California, Oregon, and Washington pledged to be “sanctuaries” for abortion. With the considerable growth of digitization of all aspects of life in the West, there has been much talk about the “digital effects” that may constitute an obstruction against women and their supposed “partners” in abortions. Because we live in an era of unprecedented online surveillance, conservative-led states are planning to ban voluntary termination of pregnancy on their soil and may utilize digital data from apps that help provide abortion services. Some laws passed in some states even encourage ordinary citizens to sue women suspected of having abortions or those who helped them, even a taxi driver who reportedly drove them to the clinic! In a letter sent at the end of May to the head of Google, 42 elected US officials warned that Google’s technologies could become “tools for extremists who want to suppress people seeking reproductive health care because Google regularly retains and shares information about the geographical location of hundreds of millions of smartphone users with government agencies. Victims with No One to Mourn Them The concurrence between the uproar in the Arab world due to the series of murders of women in several countries, and an uproar caused by a legal amendment that will protect the lives of children who are victims of abortion, reflects a global split: Liberal vs. Conservative. According to an entry on the World Health Organization website on September 28, 2017, there were, globally, about 25 million unsafe abortions (45% of all abortions) each year between 2010 and 2014. The majority of unsafe abortions (97%) occurred in developing countries. In Greenland, official statistics indicate that since 2013, about 700 births have been recorded annually, compared to 800 abortions. In Germany, amidst lower rates of legal abortion, the year 2021 saw the lowest abortion rate in the country since 1996. According to the Federal Statistics Office, nearly 94,000 abortions were performed.
Roe’s Ripples Continue to Stretch Far and Wide
By Luisa Markides
That 1973 judgement, known throughout the world as ‘Roe vs Wade’, had for years been the hero and villain of the abortion-rights and anti-abortion movements respectively .
Few will have missed the scenes of raw emotion in recent days after the U.S. Supreme Court overruled a 1973 judgement that said the ‘right to privacy’ was constitutionally protected, meaning so was a woman’s right to abortion. Both within and outside America, people celebrated or mourned this seismic shift, depending on what they thought about this most thorny – and deeply personal – of issues. That 1973 judgement, known throughout the world as ‘Roe vs Wade’, had for years been the hero and villain of the abortion-rights and anti-abortion movements respectively. Overturned, it has quickly come to represent the half-century in which all women across the United States were able to choose whether to halt the life of their unborn child. In some U.S. States, women will still be able to choose, because the Supreme Court has essentially devolved the decision to the nation’s elected representatives, some of whom are ardently conservative and ‘pro-life’, others of whom are passionately liberal and ‘pro-choice’. But is it, in fact, a woman’s right to choose? That is a key and controversial question thrown up by this week’s legal tornado, and a question each individual State must now answer. Put another way, at the very core of this issue of abortion is the question of whether the right to decide lies with the parents of the unborn child, or with the child itself. If it lies with the child, then they have a default right to life, and the mother has no right to the privacy needed to abort. Amidst the noise and chants and banners, it can help to go back to basics to understand an argument. For the most part, becoming pregnant and giving birth are joyous and welcome moments in a woman’s life. The overwhelming feeling of excitement and hopefulness when they find out that they are ex-
pecting has been written about, sung about, lauded, saluted, and celebrated for centuries. For many firsttime mothers, it is one of the most amazing feelings that they will ever experience and it can often be the answer to a couple’s prayers. The fact that life passes on through them, through the woman’s body, is - to many religious and non-religious people - a miracle. But… For some women, that rose-tinted bluebird-singing image bears no resemblance to reality. What do we say to the women who did not plan on getting pregnant, who cannot give birth without having their life plans dissolve before their eyes, whose genuine reaction to the news is not one of joy and hope but of sadness and despair? For some women, pregnancy is not something to be lauded, saluted, or celebrated. It is the very worst thing that could have happened, at that time. Moreover, what do we say to the woman filled with anxiety, fear, shock, disbelief, who feels she cannot cope, whose circumstances simply mean that things will fall apart once she has another mouth to feed, another soul to care for? Separately, what do we say to the woman who has become pregnant through an act of violence? There is still a huge stigma around unwanted pregnancies, and much prejudice when a woman admits that she cannot – for whatever reason - bring her pregnancy to term. That stigma and that prejudice often result in feelings of desperation. To these women, gone is the image in their mind’s eye of the future they had mapped out, planned, strived for, hoped for. For them, here instead is an unwanted and ill-timed insertion that – with Roe overturned – they cannot avoid. Yet what, I wonder, of the feelings of the unborn
FILE PHOTO - An abortion rights activist holds up a sign as marchers take part in the 46th annual March for Life in Washington, U.S., January 18, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts child, this little soul that has – through no fault of its own - not been welcomed into the world by its parents? What issues will it have as a result of that, perhaps for the rest of its life? There are some who believe that a soul chooses its parents. Whether this is true or not we will never know, but regardless, what rights does an unborn baby have, and can their existence - or the ending of it - be decided by their mother or father? In other words, is being ‘unwelcome’ reason enough not to live? Do rights only begin at birth, or do they begin at inception? Does a foetus always deserve to see the world? The American activist Norma McCorvey, better known by the pseudonym ‘Jane Roe’ in the eponymous court case, became the plaintiff in one of the world’s most famous legal battles in 1969, while living in Texas and pregnant with her third. Court proceedings took so long that her child – a daughter by the name of Shelley Thornton – was born before the judgement. She was given up for adoption and years later McCorvey sought her out following a public appeal. Thornton’s reaction towards her mother was telling. “What, I’m supposed to thank you for getting knocked up and then giving me away?” she asked. “I would never, ever thank you for not aborting me.” In Joshua Prager’s ‘The Roe Family: An American Story,’ she recognises that “when someone is pregnant with a baby, and they don’t want that baby, that person develops knowing they’re not wanted”.
For former First Lady Michelle Obama, the right to choose lies with the mother, because it is her body, and because the consequences of unwanted pregnancies forced to term can be devastating. Everyone, she said, “should be given the fundamental right to make informed decisions about their own bodies,” adding that it is “heart-breaking that women are forced to move forward with pregnancies they do not want, then abandon them once their babies are born”. On both sides, this then becomes an issue of legacy, of ‘having to deal with it’. This applies equally to the knowingly unwanted child as to the mother who ended her pregnancy. Moral discomfort, psychological distress, and/or feelings of regret and guilt, can resurface in later life. With so many lives, so many ways of living, and so many sets of values and beliefs, it is tempting to simply judge each individual case on its own merits, because each family’s set of circumstances will be so vastly different. Yet from all this subjectivity, there is one universal truth: people seek to live their life in the best way that they can. In an ideal world, every soul would be allowed to grow up in a healthy, welcomed, and loved environment, and there would be less judgement when such a scenario did not or could not come to pass. But as the campaigners on both sides of this argument have shown, there is not just one ‘ideal world’.
There is still a huge stigma around unwanted pregnancies, and much prejudice when a woman admits that she cannot – for whatever reason - bring her pregnancy to term .
A Weekly Political News Magazine
Issue 1911- June- 01/07/2022
Élisabeth Borne : The Long-Serving Technocrat www.majalla.com
Going Green Kharga: First Egyptian green environmentally-friendly city By Salwa Samir Egypt has recently announced Kharga as the first ever green environmentally-friendly city. Kharga is the capital of New Valley governorate in the southern part of Egypt. Egypt’s Minister of Environment Yasmin Fouad said the city of Kharga is a success story that will be presented during the upcoming COP27 climate conference, which will be held in Sharm El-Sheikh this November, hoping to repeat this experience in other cities and governorates. During a June 5 celebration organized by the New Valley Governorate to declare Kharga the first environmentally friendly city, the minister added that the New Valley enjoys great natural beauty that can be invested as an ecotourism different from the tourism of the seas and coral reefs. She added the private sector can invest there by establishing hotels using natural materials from the place and there will be a different type of tourism that depends on sand dunes and enjoying calm and relaxation away from the hustle and bustle of cities and technological “props” such as mobile and television. The city was selected due to a number of factors and advantages. A ministry committee was dispatched to examine the environmental situation of the city and study the elements of its declaration. The data prepared by the governorate was studied and field visits were carried out to various sites to ensure that there were no sources of pollution or wrong practices that had an impact on the environment. Ebtisam Abu Rehab, member of the energy and environment committee in the Egyptian House of Deputies, told Majalla that the evaluation process that was carried out to declare the city of Kharga as a green city, took into account the basic needs of humans from the use of drinking water, sanitation, energy and rationalization of the use of natural resources. “It is a pollution-free city from our grandparents’ time, not just now. There is an absence of any sources of industrial pollution, as there are no factories other than canning dates,” Abu Rehab, who is from New Valley governorate, added. “It is an important factor in selecting the city. The millions of palm trees that are cultivated from the past and even in modern
times help filter the air,” she added. “We use nature-made materials in our life. For example, we use wood from palm trees in making ceilings of the houses. So there is no need to erect air conditions.” Abu Rehab added that the city relies on new and renewable energy sources (solar energy - natural gas) and energy-saving in government agencies, street lighting, places of worship, and water extraction from irrigation wells and homes. She pointed out that Kharga city contains all sewage and treatment services. There is also an encouragement for sustainable agricultural activities and focus on ecological products such as mushrooms and silk. There is also a trend to get rid of the use of single-use plastic bags. During the celebration, the Environment Minister laid the foundation stone for the solar power plant to serve the mechanized government departments› complex north of Kharga with a capacity of 1.5 megawatts. The minister inspected the Natural Silk Oasis project north of Kharga city, which is located on an area of 180 acres and includes agricultural greenhouses for vegetables and fruits, a nursery for planting mulberry trees, and a palm tree farm that includes
Kharga Oasis. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Temple of Hibis. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
7000 seedlings. In addition to a factory for sericulture and silk production, there is also a fish farming project spread over an area of 1.5 acres, producing 50 tons of tilapia and mullet. In addition, Kharga city is characterized by its many tourist and archaeological attractions from different eras. It is the location for the Temple of Hibis, the largest and well-preserved temple in Kharga, made of sandstone. The temple, the only structure in Egypt dating to the Saite-Persian period (404–664 BC), was dedicated to the worship of the Theban triad “Amon, Mut and Khonsu”. It consists of an anchorage, a Roman gate, the Avenue of the Rams, a Ptolemaic gate, a Persian gate, a pillared hall, the transverse hall and the Hall of the Holy of Holies. Another Temple called Nadura is located 3 kilometres north of Kharga, on a high hill that rises about 75 m above the surface of the land. It was used as a control point for passing caravans in ancient times. The temple was dedicated to the worship of the god Khonsu, and was built during the reign of Emperors Hadrian and Antoninus Pius of the Roman era, and it consists of a sandstone building surrounded by brick walls. Al Bajwat Cemetery was the main cemetery in Kharga during ancient Egyptian times and continued until the Coptic period. It dates back to between the 2nd and 7th centuries AD, and is located 6 kilometres north of the city of Kharga. The cemetery consists of 263 shrines of different and distinctive architectural styles, showing the skill of the Egyptian artist in depicting a group of subjects from the Bible on its ceilings in a fresco method. Kharga also includes the New Valley Museum which was built on an area of 3150 square meters, and consists of a three-storey building. On display are 4,087 artifacts dating from the beginning of the prehistoric era until the era of the Mohamed Ali family. Among the most important of these artifacts are those that date back to prehistoric times, and a rare group of statues and funerary paintings belonging to the rulers of the Kharga oases, and another group of statues of deities, writing tools, ornaments, amulets and
It is a pollution-free city from our grandparents’ time, not just now. There is an absence of any sources of industrial pollution, as there are no factories other than canning dates. wall paintings. Ahead of COP27, the Environment Minister and Governor of South Sinai, Khaled Fouda witnessed the signing of the document of the Sharm El-Sheikh Green City project funded by the Global Environment Facility and implemented by the Environmental Affairs Agency in cooperation between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the United Nations Development Program. “The project aims to transform Sharm El-Sheikh into an environmentally sustainable and integrated tourist city, at a cost of about 7$ million, to be of national and international importance, by adopting more low-carbon technologies and good waste management practices,” the Minister of Environment Fouad, told local media. She added that this will be achieved by developing an integrated strategy for the sustainable development of Sharm El-Sheikh, as well as developing an action plan, focusing on technical assistance, capacity building and demonstrating good practices to mitigate the effects of climate change, and to prevent and manage chemicals and waste. “Many measures have been implemented, including converting transportation to work with electricity, declaring a group of green and sustainable hotels, as well as switching to the use of renewable energy,” the minister said.
Cavafy Museum: Hidden Gem in Alexandria Alexandrian Open Museum Tracing Life of a Greek Poet By Sarah Gamal On the second floor of an old turn-of-the-century house on a quiet side street, near the Cairo Opera House (Fouad St.) on Rue C.P. Cavafy (formerly Rue Lepsius and Rue Sharm el Sheik), the Cavafy Museum is located. It is where the most prominent Greek poet Constantine P. Cavafy lived and created at the beginning of the last century, at a time when Al-
exandria was once a multicultural city where Greeks, Jews, Armenians, and others lived and prospered. His poetic production represented the epitome of Greek Alexandrian culture, while his biography preserved the wonderful history of the Greek community, one of the largest foreign communities that lived in Egypt. Constantine P. Cavafy was a great Greek poet and one of the most famous modern poets. He is regarded as both the great-
est contemporary Greek poet and the greatest Greek poet known to Egypt. Cavafy’s full name was Kostis Petros Fotiadis Cavafy but he was known only as Constantine Cavafy or Cavafy. He was born on April 29, 1863 AD in one of the houses on Sherif Street in Alexandria. His father Petros was descended from the Photiadis family and had migrated from Istanbul, the capital of the Ottoman Caliphate at the time, to Alexandria. Some researchers believe that the family of the poet Cavafy a desk he used for daily writing. It was placed in the entrance was of Armenian origin, but Cavafy himself did not refer to to the house, with a large notebook on it, so that visitors could this privately or publically, as he was always proud that he record their impressions of the place.” was a Greek from Byzantium. “When Cavafy reached the age of seven, his father died, and Majalla went on a tour of the home-turned-museum, where we at the age of nine, his mother had to emigrate with him and his crossed the museum’s gate, which is open to all. We climbed brothers to England. They returned to Alexandria after seven two floors of the museum, which is filled with Alexandrian years, and settled in here,” the Museum curator continued. history and poetry, before meeting Mohamed El-Sayed, the Cavafy’s proficiency in five languages besides Arabic resultmuseum’s curator since 1992. ed from these trips, and five years after his return, he worked El-Sayed met us and began telling the story of the Greek poet, as a freelance translator in the Ministry of Irrigation Inspecsaying: “Cavafy was born on Sherif Street in the center of Al- tion. However, he was not committed to attending appointexandria on April 29, 1863, to Greek ments or going to the workplace, which parents of Turkish origin, who immiallowed him to work as a broker in the grated to Alexandria in 1850 and had Manshiya Cotton Exchange, at a time eight sons and a girl, Cavafy was the when Alexandria was at the height of youngest of them.” its golden age and was a global center “Cavafy was a distinguished and for the cotton trade. After finishing his simple poet, his poems carried his work, he would return home and start own philosophy, and his poetry practicing his hobby of writing poetry. style entices you to read his works The museum curator revealed that in and poems. His longest poem was July 1923 Cavafy wrote his will in two pages long. The most famous of which he recommended that his beCavafy’s poems is “Ithaca,” which longings be returned to his Greek friend Sean Connery read in ‘007’, Moand business manager. However, the hamed El-Sayed, the museum’s cumanager transferred most of the furnirator said. ture and belongings to Greece, leaving As for his upbringing, “His father only a few pieces, while the Greek Aswas a wealthy man who owned a sociation moved the rest of the furniture cotton ginning factory in Alexanto its headquarters and set up a special dria as well as a chain of agricultural museum in Cavafy. crop stores. He was a close friend of A room contains a bed and a closet, along with Kostis Moskof initiated the establishKhedive Ismail, who invited him to portraits of Cavafy. (Photo Credit: Sarah Gamal) ment of the Cavafy Museum in Alexanthe Suez Canal opening ceremony in dria in 1992. Moskof was an energetic 1869,” El-Sayed said. and charismatic poet and scholar who When you enter the house where Cavafy lived, you move was appointed cultural attaché to the Greek Embassy in Cairo from the current era to the royal era in Egypt, when thousands in 1990. He held this position until his death in 1998, and of citizens of foreign communities lived, merging in a toler- during his time in Egypt, he worked tirelessly to establish the ant atmosphere, and open to the other. The house is adhering Cavafy Museum and support study of the poet through the to the distinctive furniture style of the beginnings of the last Cavafia Conferences, which were held on a regular basis in century, so that the house looks exactly as it was during the Cairo and Alexandria. life of the late poet, even if the pieces of furniture used were The museum is crammed with photos from his younger and not original pieces, as the curator of the museum, Mohamed later years, as well as his handwritten will and birth certifiEl-Sayed, assured us. cate in Greek, as well as numerous scripts and books. Some El-Sayed added that, “the original pieces from the time of publications are also sold to generate revenue for the preserCavafy himself in the museum are limited to the hanging mir- vation of the site. The house’s holdings also included many ror in the office room, a small commode in the bedroom, and of Cavafy’s poems in his own handwriting, as well as some
“Constantine P. Cavafy was a great Greek poet and one of the most famous modern poets.”
A desk that was used by Constantine P. Cavafy for daily writing, placed in the entrance of the house. (Photo Credit: Sarah Gamal)
The home-turned-museum of Constantine P. Cavafy. (Photo Credit: Sarah Gamal)
paintings inspired by his poems by the Croatian artist Stanislav Mariganovic and others, in addition to more than 70 critical and literary works about the poet in different languages, including Arabic. The pictures also reflect his extensive social relationships, along with a large-sized oil painting of Khedive Ismail, who was a close friend of his father. In addition to items donated by the Greek Church to the Museum, there is also some furniture, personal belongings, a mirror, a collection of icons and archaeological objects, postage stamps and certificates of appreciation that he obtained, as well as a set of videos for the films that were produced about him. Cavafy’s apartment became a cheap hostel after his death in
A portrait of Young Cavafy. (Photo Credit: Sarah Gamal)
1933. A sort of museum was later established on the upper floor of the Greek Consulate General, which is located in Alexandria’s Hellenic Quarter. Although the poet’s heirs sold his furniture, his library was saved. “The place has been open to visitors since 1992, it is famous throughout the world, and it is visited by people from all over the world,” the curator said. “Egyptians have become frequent visitors to the museum, es-
“When you enter the house where Cavafy lived, you move from the current era to the royal era in Egypt, when thousands of citizens of foreign communities lived, merging in a tolerant atmosphere, and open to the other.”
Mohamed El-Sayed, the museum’s curator. (Photo Credit: Sarah Gamal)
A room contains a posthumous portrait of Cavafy and portraits of friends. (Photo Credit: Sarah Gamal)
A mask bearing Cavafy’s features was placed on a scarlet pillow, which was made days before his death. (Photo Credit: Sarah Gamal)
pecially since the January 25 revolution. It has recently attracted a large number of visitors, particularly from outside Alexandria, the Delta, and Upper Egypt. Unfortunately, the people of Alexandria are unfamiliar with their own city,” ElSayed added. The cultural atmosphere in Alexandria during Cavafy’s lifetime was dynamic and diverse, with literary works published in French, Greek, and Italian in addition to Arabic. This coincided with the transformation of the city into an important global commercial center, which contributed to the delegations of foreigners to Alexandria. The city’s fame drew a number of Western writers, including the English writer E.M. Foster, who came to Alexandria to write his most famous novel “The Road to India,” where he met Cavafy and helped to translate his works into English. E.M. Foster introduced Cavafy to English readers as “The Poet,” with English translations of some of his poems done by Valassopoulos. Cavafy has since been translated into numerous languages, including his native Egyptian Arabic. He has become inextricably linked with his beloved Alexandria, both through his own work and that of others, such as Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet, in which Cavafy weaves in and out of the narrative via quotes from the poems and indirect references. “Many famous people have visited the museum, including Nobel laureate Ferit Orhan Pamuk, the Turkish novelist and screenwriter who won the Nobel Prize in 2006, as well as Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa and a number of actors and presidents. Other visitors include many Arab poets such
“Cavafy was a distinguished and simple poet, his poems carried his own philosophy, and his poetry style entices you to read his works and poems.” as Saadi Yousef, Mahmoud Darwish, and Adunis, and many writers and thinkers from around the world.” Mohamed ElSayed, the museum’s curator said. The Onassis Foundation plans to restore the Cavafy Museum in Alexandria in collaboration with the Hellenic Foundation for Culture, which has run and maintained it since its inception in 1992. On the 159th anniversary of the great Greek poet’s birth, the announcement was accompanied by an emotional video of the museum. The Onassis Foundation purchased Cavafy’s archive ten years ago and digitized it using cutting-edge archiving techniques, producing over 2000 items that are now freely available to all researchers and friends of the poet. Its most recent goal in honor of the Alexandrian poet’s legacy is for the upcoming restoration to turn the Cavafy museum in Alexandria into a cultural magnet for visitors from all over the world.
Story of Silk Wedding Dress of Queen Elizabeth II Mezannar Family’s Brocade Legacy Alive since 1890
By Motasem Al Felou - Damascus When the British Royal Court’s fashion designer, Norman Hartnell, was brainstorming about the royal wedding dress of the -21year-old – then- Crown Princess of the UK & British Realms, Elizabeth II, he thought a royal wedding needed something truly unique that does not exit everywhere. Hartnell had only 5 five months to prepare the royal wedding dress before the heir to the UK throne’s big day on November ,20 1947. He knew about a precious kind of lavish fabric, that exists in only one country with a special artistic style that cannot be matched anywhere else in the world, to make the royal wedding dress. The country is Syria, namely Damascus, & the unique fabric is “brocade”. “When we speak about celebrities & prominent persons in the world like royals & wealthy people, we find that they look for rare, unique things. I believe the UK’s Royal Court addressed the Syrian Presidential Palace in 1947, under the rule of President Shukri Al Quwatly (ruled between 1949-1945), asking for a precious piece of “brocade” fabric for making Princess Elizabeth II’s wedding dress. They bought from my grandfather’s shop and (it was) made in his own plant”, said Antoine Mezannar, who represents the third generation of a Damascene family that has specialized in “brocade fabric” since the late 1800’s, from his boutique hotel’s courtyard in Quemarieh, the heart of the Christian Alley in the historical part of the Syrian capital, Damascus. The purple cherry blossom trees in the middle of March and the traditional fountain in the middle of the courtyard have made the interview more interesting and richer in history.
shows the rich artistic taste of the colorful drawings”, Mezannar defines brocade in simple words. Whether “brocade’ exists only in Syria or not, Mezannar said, “This fabric has Chinese, Indian and Japanese versions; however, the Damascene brocade has a key differentiation point: the drawings, colors and the weaving style. Some confuse the silk industry with brocade. Whenever we mention “brocade fabric”, we should refer to jacquard, a decorative design that is woven into the brocade fabric. The name came after Mr. Jacquard, a French inventor, who create the first automatic machine for silk weaving and drawing”, he added. When asked about his family’s brocade heritage in the industry, Mezannar answered: “My grandfather, Antoine Elias Mezannar, born in 1865, was the first Damascene brocade manufacturer to import the jacquard machine for his plant in the Old City of
WHAT IS BROCADE FABRIC? “Brocade, a special Damascene lavish fabric, is made from natural silk that is woven with gold and silver-coated copper threads that
Princess Elizabeth and the Prince, Philip Duke of Edinburgh, at Buckingham Palace after their wedding on Nov. 1947 ,20 - Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Damascus in 1890. Since then, he started to add creative, nonclichéd designs to the brocade he made, paving the way for the Damascene brocade identity to flourish and gain its reputation.” The family inherited the industry generation after generation to keep the legacy alive.
RESELIENCE & RESISTANCE DESPITE CHALLENGES The Damascene brocade industry is facing huge challenges, including the Western sanctions against Syria, which prevents tourists from flocking to Syria and makes it harder to export due to financial sanction on the Syrian banking sector, and the high production costs, and the weak purchasing power in the local market. Most Syrian products are having difficulties reaching the international markets. Some professions have become extinct. “The average selling price of one meter of brocade is around USD 50. With the absence of export markets, we rely on tourists and local customers. We have worked in the field since 1890, and we will continue for generations to come.”, commented the brocade maker on the negative effects of the Syrian War and the consequences on the industry. “Our works have been exhibited at the Museo de Lyon (Museum of Lyon) in France. We have borrowed the most beautiful natural elements in Syrian nature and employed them in our brocade fabric’s drawings and decoration to create gorgeous designs”, he added.
The country is Syria, namely Damascus, & the unique fabric is “brocade”. INDUSTRY PROSPECTS “In the journey of evolution, my uncle replaced the manual production style with the mechanical one. I have modernized the brocade industry to be electronic, a matter that has enabled us to produce any design digitally, while keeping the fundamentals of the industry”, Mezannar said, describing the industry evolution. “Our family name, Mezannar, is always linked to the brocade industry. We are deeply rooted in the land, and will fight to continue the production”, he added. The Syrian silkman has developed his family business to include two traditional boutique hotels (the buildings date back to the 17th century) and one traditional hammam bath. Antoine Mezannar believes that the cultural investment is a noble cause to preserve the traditional heritage of the oldest capital in history, Damascus, and a profitable business. “I believe the brocade industry will never die. More cultural investment will benefit the Syrian economy and showcase the Syrian art to the world”, he said. “Humans die, but markets never die”, Mezannar, the grandson, concluded.
Story Behind Current Attack on Hollywood Foreign Press Association Is it the end of a Hollywood love story? By Mohammed Rouda Hollywood- The distance between this critic’s Beverly Hills apartment and 464 North Robertson Boulevard is less than a half-hour drive from, that is if you know the least crowded time and the route. It is a two-story building adorned with a tree that grew at its entrance. You ring the door bell, announce your name, and they open the door for you. You walk down a short hallway and enter the door on your right. Welcome to the headquarters of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Its English name has a similar qualitative impact. The case is that this name, in this quiet and beautifully designed building that was built back in the forties, used to echo around the world throughout the year, especially in the last three months of each year, and more specifically in the first month of the following year. For many years, this place used to be a meeting for about 100 members representing some 55 countries and about 30 languages. The Association would give interviews to Hollywood and international filmmakers, attend special screenings of new films held throughout the year, organize parties attended by movie stars, including producers, directors, and actors, as well as to accept
invitations from Hollywood companies to visit the filming sets, and to travel to international and US festivals to cover them and gain knowledge out of them. An active member in the Association was required to be a resident of Los Angeles or any city in its vast surroundings, to be a film journalist and submit five articles to it each year, to attend five of the monthly administrative meetings, and to attend 40 interviews a year. The working environment there is quite something. Undoubtedly, this is a paradise for journalists and film critics. Nothing in the entire world comes close. Usually, the
Tom Cruise aimed his weapon against the HFPA
last four months before the annual Golden Globes are a festival abounding with films and interviews. It is like a celebration of news and articles carried by the international press, leading to the awards ceremony, which has gained great popularity for many years as the second most important annual award after the Oscars.
Distinctive Features Suddenly, the weather turned cold. It rained pouring problems and strong winds blew, putting the Association through the worst experience an institution could go through in this particular era. An article in “The Los Angeles Times” overturned all standards, discarded what this institution had done for Hollywood, annulled its achievements and imposed a cordon of boycott embarked on by Hollywood film studios and their dealers in various fields. Tom Cruise brought back three awards he had won. The first was for his role in “Born on the Fourth of July,” the second for “Herry Maguire,” and the third for his role in “Magnolia.” The NBC station that has the Golden Globes broadcast right set in front of itself a playing field as everyone yelled at it like the chorus behind the opera singer.
Before delving into the reasons and excuses, one must note that Hollywood had embraced the Association and contributed to its popularity. The Golden Globe Awards had seen the presence of major producers, studio owners, and a large number of directors and actors. Between 2010 and 2021, viewership on NBC increased steadily, while the Oscars began to record a decline in viewership year after year. What happened is an article that was published in February 2021 after that year’s awards ceremony, which stated that the Association did not include a single AfricanAmerican member. The article also stated that members of the Association have advantages those other non-affiliated journalists do not enjoy from free trips to the available interviews and parties organized by film companies for members of the Association as the opening date of a film approaches. There are also the trips to filming locations, which affect the independence and effectiveness of voting. Thus, the Association found itself in a defensive trench with a major attack launched by other institutions during a time of correctness, boycott and criticism against the prevailing rhetoric, regardless of the correctness of the act or not. It faced calls for fundamental reforms, including an increase in the number of journalist members, given that the door was always open to anyone who wanted to join. It is worth noting that there were not enough journalists in Hollywood who reported to non-US organizations as required by the Association law.
Nichole Kidman won the Golden Globe Award but didn’t attend the ceremony.
in Drama for his role in “King Richard.” The winning picture in the drama category was “The Power of the Dog,” and the comedy category went to “West Side Story.” The association expected that by throwing its gauntlet, it would win a round, not a war, and it did achieve this, but the results of the victory were limited. Not only the ceremony was boycotted, it was again criticized for not having done all the required “reforms.” The truth is that there are those who plan to dispense the Association and cancel its presence completely. For them, it is a thorn in the flesh of a society that wants to rally under the banners of “political correctness,” and utilize the weak spots or bumpy protrusions in each person, body or organization to score positive
Unclean Intentions The situation reached a tipping point this year when the Association defied the siege imposed on it and proceeded to distribute its awards at a ceremony to the available attendees. It was not a ceremony as much as an announcement of presence and attendance. At that ceremony, Nicole Kidman won Best Actress in Drama for her role in “Being the Ricardos,” and Will Smith won Best Actor
American-Lebanese producer Georges Chamchoum stand swith the Association and against what is being plotted against it all the way.
points in the media. The intentions are thus not pure, and there is a confusion between what must be reformed and interfering in the affairs of an institution with another wishing it could seize its advantages, which in turn resulted in an unnecessary severe punishment. What is going on now is the desire of various parties in Hollywood to get rid of the burden of self-reflection and accept the changes that Hollywood Foreign Press Association responded to its necessities, and those it seeks to achieve. For these parties, there are many other institutions that can provide the same media service that the Association has always provided.
With and not Against These services include the donation of millions of dollars to various US universities, professional institutions, and various charities. One of its most important achievements throughout history is its decadeslong restoration of classic films, the latest of which, about a week ago, was Federico Fellini’s “La Strada” (1954) and “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ” by US Director Fred Niblo (1925). During the last edition of Cannes Festival, there was an agreement with director Costa-Gavras to supervise the restoration of one of the most important works of French cinema, “Napoleon” by Abel Gance (1927).
Golden Globe Awards
The reason that the Association is able to distribute such gifts and aid is because it is a non-profit Association that is not obligated to pay taxes on its revenues, which, according to the contract concluded between it and NBC for broadcasting its annual concert, amount to $60 million. The second party, which supports the return of the HFPA to activity as soon as possible, takes this fact into consideration, noting that undermining this institution will not serve the film industry at all because of the money it has spent since its establishment and it still does on such non-profit projects. In addition, the view of this party, which includes production companies and various media organizations, is that the absence of the Association and its annual ceremony harms the promotion of the films themselves. Simon Hall, president of one of the companies that previously dealt with the Association by organizing presentations and press interviews, tells this critic: “The Association is one of the best organizations
working in Hollywood today. I also believe that the Golden Globes Awards were an important and valuable addition to Hollywood and should continue to be held.” Lebanese director and producer Georges Chamchoum dealt with the same association for several years through his management of the Asia World Film Festival. Commenting on what is going with the Association, he says: “I stand with the Association and against what is being plotted against it all the way. Unfortunately, we live in a time where some people want to tighten their grip on whatever they can, and in an age in which there are many associations that interfere in the affairs of other associations and institutions by force, with the sole aim of pretending to be important and confronting movements and issues that can be accomplished by less violent and fascist means.” All this led to another split among the representatives of the companies to which studios and film production es-
tablishments assign promotional operations. Usually, these companies regulate the relationship between the new films they are entrusted with promoting and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. They organize the programming, presentations and interviews. What is happening today is that these companies are breaking apart from each other. There is a group that supports a return of the Association’s activity, and another group that opposes it, accusing the first party of retreating from what was agreed upon. Under the microscope One must acknowledge that the current storm that puts the Foreign Press Association at the crossroads between a strong return and a weak absence that is not the first in its history, even if it is the most violent. The Association was established in 1943 even before it found a location for its offices. In 1944, it held its first awards cer-
Fellini’s “La Strada” was restored at the expense of the HFPA.
emony. After ten years, it added its prizes those of television shows, which strengthened its position and enabled it to continue its activities and then be criticized here and ridiculed. Some Hollywood veterans remember how the Association was faced with a decision of no confidence in the 1970s when a producer was found to have bought support votes for his wife, actress Pia Zadora. During the eighties, the Association realized that its success lied in its seriousness and continued to work in this way, although some of its members took advantage of their position for personal gains, perhaps as is the case in every other institution around the world. The problem is that the society is under the microscope and the more successful and powerful it becomes, the more its enemies will grow, with other societies wanting to take its place (as happened last year when the National Society of Film Critics rushed to try to fill in the gap created by this situation).
In 1999, I had moved from Los Angeles to Mesa, Arizona, away from the usual hustle and bustle of Hollywood. It was not a few months before one of the Association’s members called me, with an offer to join them. I do not remember how he got my phone number back then, but I do remember that a week later I flew to meet him and two other members. A few weeks later I was back in Hollywood and my documents were submitted and I earned the membership by voting like any other member. I also remember that much of what was said about the Association lately is no longer speculation out of jealousy. For example, take the claim that there is no black member. This was true until recently but the reason is that African countries chose white members to write for their newspapers and the member who called me asked me once if I knew African-American journalists in order to have them join. There is another thing to consider to make
the situation clear: there was a mistake in the process of accepting new members due to the opposition of the old members against the new ones wishing to join for fear of competition in the country they represent. Thus, a Swedish or Australian members may oppose accepting another member from their country in order to avoid competition. However, this situation was resolved following the recent measures taken by the administration. We are seven months away from the next Golden Globes, and even less time for preparations. The prevailing question in Hollywood now is whether the association will survive this crisis or collapse. * Mohammed Rouda is Asia World Film Festival consultant, programmer, and script writer. He wrote books on cinema. He’s also a member of: Fipresci (International Federation of Film Critics), London Film Circle MPAA (the media section, Hollywood), and Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
By Mohammed Rouda
[A weekly roundup of screenings at movie theatres around the world] THE MAN FROM TORONTO ★★★
This Western stands out from the cowboy, good-bad-bad-fighting and fiery duels in that it is not based on any of these features. Richard Grey’s movie can also be seen as a detective film that would have been set in that era. It’s about a man (Thomas Jane) and his wife (Anna Camp) who seek to prove the innocence of a man accused of murder and may be hanged. There is a good suspense in this unfamiliar combination of investigation and Western, an attention to the specifics of the place (a city named Yellowstone in Montana in 1881) and a desire to break free from tradition. The film embodies the presence of Gabriel Byrne in the role of the Sheriff. ◆ Final judgement: A refreshing addition to an old cinema.
◆ Directed by: Patrick Hughes ◆ Genre: Action Comedy [US] ◆ Commercial Screenings.
◆ Directed by: Paul Solet ◆ Genre: Action ◆ Showing in GCC countries. Kevin Hart wants to reclaim his great American dream but all odds are against him. He’s a peddler for a sporting goods company who ends up taking a hitman (Woody Harrelson) into the grueling process of proving his innocence of a crime he did not commit. The director does a good job in selection the crises and setting the scenes in a row with a few familiar cliches. In fact, the director tries to cover these cliches by expanding on the events, which results in a flabby scenario that could have been emptied of some of these additions. ◆ Final judgement: Good entertainment for genre enthusiasts.
MURDER AT YELLOWSTONE CITY ★★★ ◆ Directed by: Richard Grey ◆ Genre: Western [US] ◆ Commercial Screenings.
Actor Adrian Brody wrote, composed, produced, and starred in the film. This reflects the extent of his interest in a film that he wants to be an expression in more than one form. However, the plot is not new despite its remarkable start. Brody leads as a cleaning worker whose name is (oddly) “Clean”, who decides to quit and take a quiet life away from his previous job as a cleaner. But, as in such plots, he finds himself pushed again. ◆ Final judgement: Brody is an actor who deserves better work.
MR. MALCOLM’S LIST ★★★
◆ Directed by: Emma Holy Jones ◆ Genre: Drama [UK] ◆ Commercial Screenings.
memorize his lines. I stayed awake the whole time to detect a slip but it seems they were all cut out of the movie. The story is very traditional: a military service terrorist group occupies a military factory, and Bruce Willis and his assistant must intervene to thwart the following events. ◆ Final judgement: We have watched similar movies 365 times a year.
THE ISLAND ★★★
◆ Directed by: Anka Damian ◆ Genre: Animation [Romania] ◆ Screened at Annecy Festival.
Director Jones takes great care in perfecting her work. In addition, she narrates a romantic tale between a woman who is surprised one day that the man whom she decided to marry has changed his mind, which prompts her to try to take revenge. In addition to the delicate tale infused with good romantic attitudes, there is the attention to the historical period (19th century), which makes the film one of those social-emotional films that British cinema witnessed with steady success. Zawe Ashton, Sope Dirisu and Freida Pinto star in the movie. ◆ Final judgement: Good and suitable for a family audience.
◆ Directed by: Jared Cohn ◆ Genre: Action [USA] ◆ Showing in GCC countries.
A good variation of the novel “Robinson Crusoe” that the big screen has repeatedly adopted for decades. What is new here is not only that the film is animated, unlike the previous adaptations, but that its director diversifies the characters and adds events that were not originally in the novel. This is the story of a European who finds himself alone on an island he thought deserted only to discover many characters, not just Mr. Friday. Wonderful surreal scenes and successive positions. ◆ Final judgement: New of its kind and smooth execution. This is, probably the last movie that Bruce Willis starred in be- Ratings: ★ Weak or average | ★★: Mediocre with merits| fore he decided to retire due to an illness that left him unable to ★★★: Good | ★★★★: Excellent | ★★★★★: A masterpiece
Meet Malak Abdelshafi, Egypt’s Paralympic Swimming Champion Egypt’s First Female Swimmer Gets Qualified for Tokyo Paralympic Games Finals By Sarah Gamal The Egyptian Paralympic swimming team performed well at the World Championships, which were held from June 8 to 18 in Madeira, Portugal, with four swimmers reaching the finals for the first time in a long time. Egypt’s Paralympic Swimming Champion, Malak Abdelshafi, finished fourth in the world in the 100m breast-stroke in the medical classification sp4 class with a time of 2.16, only five seconds behind the French champion. Because of the young age of the swimmers and the fact that four swimmers have reached the world championship finals for the first time in a long time, these results are considered a major achievement for Paralympic swimming. Malak Abdelshafi, a 19-year-old, is the first Egyptian female swimmer qualified for the finals of the Paralympic Games in Tokyo 2020 and an African Record Holder in 100m breastroke (London 2019) and winner of the Silver Medal at the Youth World Championship (Athlone 2018). Malak suffered severe spinal cord injuries in an accident when she was 10 months old, leaving her partially paralyzed. After the accident, hydrotherapy was part of her treatment, and she grew to enjoy swimming as a result. Abdelshafi joined Egypt’s national team in 2014. Since then, Abdelshafi has won 39 national and 6 international medals. Majalla recognizes Abdelshafi’s great achievements and sheds light on her journey as part of its efforts to support women in sports. Malak Abdelshafi recalled her inspiring journey and started her speech with; “I began swimming as a form of hydrotherapy because wheelchair users frequently require blood circulation. I had no intention of swimming professionally. My trainer told me I was talented and encouraged me to compete during my hydrotherapy sessions.”
“My first championship was with my club in 2012, and I won a silver medal. I was 9 years old at the time and the youngest participant. We were all taken aback and did not expect it. Since then, I’ve decided to pursue a professional swimming career. I joined the national team in 2014 as the team’s youngest swimmer,” she added. Malak’s transformation from a recreational swimmer to a professional swimmer at the age of 11 was a watershed moment in her life. Egypt’s first Paralympic swimming championship was held in 2015 in Spain, where Malak won two silver medals and one gold. Following that, she competed in numerous international championships, winning several medals and finishing as Ireland’s second world junior in 2018. Her family was her staunchest supporter throughout her journey. When her mother joined her at championships, she usually covered the additional costs of fitness training, nutritionists, and
Malak Abdelshafi, Egyptian Champion in Paralympic Swimming, donning some of her medals. (Photo Courtesy of Malak Abdelshafi)
Malak Abdelshafi (middle) with her mother (left) and her sister (right). (Photo Courtesy of Malak Abdelshafi)
Malak Abdelshafi is with her mother “her role model”. (Photo Courtesy of Malak Abdelshafi)
life coaching sessions, as well as travel expenses. “My family is my most ardent supporter. I couldn’t have done anything without them. One of the most difficult challenges I face [as a Paralympic champion] is finding a sponsor to fund my extra training and the travel expenses of whoever comes with me, which is usually my mother. When my mother joins me at championships, she usually covers the additional costs of fitness training, a nutritionist, and life coaching sessions, in addition to her travel expenses.” Malak experienced several setbacks in her life, but she believed that when the path to your goal becomes blocked, you should never give up and instead find another way to achieve your goal. “In 2018, I was injured and diagnosed with Keinbock’s disease, which required the removal of bones from my left wrist, limiting my mobility. I had to have surgery, which prevented me from competing in a champion in 2019 and thus qualifying for the World Championships. But I did not give up. We requested an exception, which was granted, and I was automatically qualified.”
Malak Abdelshafi, Egyptian Champion in Paralympic Swimming. (Photo Courtesy of Malak Abdelshafi)
“Malak Abdelshafi, a -19 yearold, is the first Egyptian female swimmer qualified for the finals of the Paralympic Games in Tokyo 2020. “In 2019, at the World Championships, I broke the African record, finished 10th overall, and qualified for the Paralympics in Tokyo 2021. My ambition has always been to compete in the Olympics. My goal is to win a gold medal and do well for my country.” She added. “Participation in the Olympics was my first dream since the beginning of my swimming career, and achieving good results in the Olympics was my greatest pleasure and happiness,” Abdelshafi said. She continued; “The last world championship in Madeira, Portugal, was held in difficult conditions. We only trained for 40 days before it, and the training was halted due to a change in the Swimming Federation’s board of directors. We could have won a bronze medal if we had trained hard enough.” “I have high hopes for the Paralympics in Paris as well as the next world championship in Manchester,” she added. Malak believes that sports have a large influence on our behavior and hopes that one day she can have a positive impact and serve as an inspiration to others. The Egyptian Paralympic swimming champion concluded her remarks by saying: “My advice to everyone, regardless of culture, age, or studies, is to participate in sports. Sports boosts self-esteem and improves health. Athletes must persevere in the face of adversity in order to continue, crown, and become champions.”
How Do I Calm My Shaking Hands? A New, Incision-free Brain Procedure Joins Mainstay Approaches to Treat Tremor
By Maureen Salamon We rely on steady hands when we sip our coffee, slide on lipstick, sign a check, or spoon up our morning oatmeal. For the estimated seven million adults in the United States with essential tremor, however, uncontrollable shaking transforms these everyday actions into sloppy, soul-sapping tasks. But people with this condition can now find relief with an incisionfree treatment called focused ultrasound, which uses sound waves to target an area in the brain’s thalamus, a key structure responsible for the quaking. Developed at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital, this use of focused ultrasound is a potentially life-altering addition to established therapies for essential tremor. “The beauty is it’s no-touch brain surgery,” says Dr. G. Rees Cosgrove, director of Epilepsy and Functional Neurosurgery at Brigham and Women’s, who has performed more than 275 such procedures over the five years since the technology received FDA approval. “The patient’s tremor is often greatly reduced or stopped right then and there.”
OTHER REASONS YOUR HANDS SHAKE Those jitters you feel after a few too many cups of coffee can make something else shaky: your hands. That’s because caffeine can trigger tremors if consumed in large amounts. Trembling hands can also result from far too much of another substance -- alcohol -- but only after you stop drinking. “Tremor from alcohol is a sign of withdrawal,” says Dr. G. Rees Cosgrove, director of Epilepsy and Functional Neurosurgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “It means you’ve been drinking for a long time.”
OTHER COMMON TRIGGERS INCLUDE - Stress - Anxiety - Excitement
- lack of sleep - vigorous exercise - overactive thyroid. - Surgery still fundamental The most common movement disorder in the world, essential tremor often runs in families and typically extends to both sides of the body. Most often, it makes the hands and arms shake -- sometimes violently -- but the legs, head, or voice might also quiver. Medications are the first treatments offered, but they may not work well, and they can lead to side effects such as drowsiness, brain fog, or lightheadedness. Even when drugs work, tremors often worsen despite increased doses. In the 1950s, doctors developed the first brain surgery to treat essential tremor, a procedure that called for the insertion of a heated probe deep into the brain to destroy tremorproducing nerve cells. That major operation was eclipsed in the 1990s by a procedure still considered fundamental: deep brain stimulation (DBS). The twostep surgery implants permanent electrodes on one or both sides of the brain and a neurostimulator device (often described as a pacemaker for the brain) under the skin near the collarbone. “We silence the tremors with electrical pulses,” Dr. Cosgrove explains. “It’s like white noise, canceling out the discharge. The stimulation only works when it’s turned on.” One big advantage to DBS is its ability to control tremors on both sides of the body. Focused ultrasound is, for now, used on only one side, while scientists continue studying its longer-term effects. But DBS also requires ongoing maintenance, with batteries in the implanted device needing surgical replacement every three to five years.
IS IT ESSENTIAL TREMOR PR PARKINSON’S? Think of Parkinson’s disease, and the first symptom likely to spring
to mind is tremor. Indeed, most people with this progressive nervous system disorder cope with quaking hands, which can also result from essential tremor. How can you tell them apart? Both conditions may look similar when they begin, but the key difference is what you’re doing with your arms when tremors strike, says Dr. G. Rees Cosgrove, director of Epilepsy and Functional Neurosurgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. It’s a case of opposite scenarios: Parkinson’s tremor occurs when the arms are at rest, stopping when you use a fork or a pen, for example. But essential tremor causes your hands to shake when you’re using them to for a task, not when they’re at rest.
The most common movement disorder in the world, essential tremor often runs in families and typically extends to both sides of the body. Most often, it makes the hands and arms shake.
that permanently destroy a pea-sized portion with vibration and heat.
The advent of focused ultrasound represents a dramatic advance in treating essential tremor. Ideal for people who might benefit from DBS but hesitate because of age or other conditions, focused ultrasound is, effectively, “brain surgery but without all the standard surgical risks,” such as bleeding or infection, Dr. Cosgrove says. Most focused ultrasound patients have been in their late 70s, though a few have passed 90.
Potential complications of focused ultrasound are typically mild and temporary, including weakness, balance problems, or pins-and-needles sensations in the hands, tongue, or face. The FDA has recently approved focused ultrasound for people with Parkinson’s disease, and scientists are studying whether tremor related to other medical conditions can be reduced.
The two-hour outpatient process involves placing the patient inside an MRI scanner, where the neurosurgeon can view images of the brain in real time from a nearby computer console. The patient is fitted with a special helmet embedded with more than 1,000 ultrasound transmitters pointed at the thalamus. The helmet generates sound waves
Dr. Cosgrove often receives handwritten letters of gratitude from patients who previously could not put pen to paper with legible results. “It’s the operation that makes grown people cry tears of joy after years of frustration,” he says.
This article was originally published by Harvard Health.
Élisabeth Borne: The Long-Serving Technocrat By Majalla Illustration by Jeannette Khouri Élisabeth Borne, France’s first female prime minister in more than 30 years, is a technocrat with a long career in a variety of government ministries and local administrations. She has negotiating experience with trade unions, which is seen as being critical as Emmanuel Macron prepares to overhaul the pension and benefits system, which could spark street protests. The 61-year-old engineer, who previously led Paris’s state transportation company, RATP, was fiercely loyal to the centrist president during his first term, serving as minister of transport, environment, and, beginning in 2020, labor. Borne, who describes herself as a “woman of the left,” has been a fixture in French power circles for decades, serving as an adviser to ministers under François Mitterrand and advising Socialist environment minister Ségolène Royal in 2014. She also worked on urban planning at Paris City Hall for left-wing mayor Bertrand Delano. The suicide of her father in 1972 when she was 11 years old shaped French Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne’s childhood. Joseph Borne, whose birth name was Bornstein, was a Jewish resistance fighter of Polish origin who survived Auschwitz but never fully recovered. Borne, the first female prefect of the western region of Poitou-Charentes, reportedly cited her own family roots as symbolizing the integration of refugees in France as she signed her first decree of French naturalization for a person who had obtained citizenship. Ms. Borne, who was known to discreetly vape even
in parliament, was frequently on television during pandemic to remind French people to work from home and defend the government’s job protection scheme. She has stated, however, that she is not interested in taking center stage, and an Ifop poll conducted last month revealed that she is not a household name insofar as 45 percent of respondents said they had no idea who she was. She is said to be meticulous with technical details. She enjoys math and finds “something quite reassuring, quite rational” in numbers. According to Agence France-Presse, she was nicknamed “Borne out” behind the scenes in the ministries where she served for the demands she made on her colleagues, a play on words with “burn out.” When President Emmanuel Macron appointed Élisabeth Borne as France’s Prime Minister, few French people were aware of the 61-year-old career bureaucrat’s family history. Ms. Borne, France’s first female prime minister since the 1990s, has been tight-lipped about her personal life and family history, which was shaped by the horrors of World War II. Ms. Borne has been reticent about her background, and her office did not respond to a request for comment. However, previous interviews suggest that her father’s death set her on a path of focused perseverance, instilling a strong belief in France’s promise that hard work pays off and that the state plays an important role in fostering upward mobility. In 1944, her father, a Jewish resistance fighter, was deported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Although he was liberated a year later, the ghosts of the past haunted him – the atrocities at Auschwitz, the loss of loved ones. When his daughter was only 11 years old, Joseph Borne committed suicide.
“It wasn’t always simple. My father died when I was very young. So we ended up with my mother, who had two daughters and didn’t make much money,” she stated in a 2021 interview with French channel C8. Ms. Borne’s ancestors are from Poland. Her grandfather, Zelig Bornstein, fled anti-Semitism in the 1920s for Belgium, where he worked for a diamond dealer. Joseph Bornstein was born in Antwerp, Belgium in 1925. He was one of four boys, the others being Léon (1921), Isaac (1923), and Albert (1930). Ms. Borne dedicated her appointment to the young girls of France. “I dedicate the nomination to all the little girls in France, to tell them ‘follow your dreams’,” she said. “Nothing should stop the fight for women’s place in our society.” She is regarded as a workaholic who rarely takes time off from her responsibilities. When she does manage to get away, she enjoys desert walks and once described Jordan’s so-called Valley of the Moon as her favorite walking memory. One of Ms. Borne’s primary responsibilities will be to carry out Mr. Macron’s complex policy promises during his second five-year term in the Elysee Palace. She is also in charge of implementing the president’s unpopular plans to raise the pension age from 62 to 64 or 65, which are expected to spark trade union opposition and protests. She will also be in charge of Mr. Macron’s “green planning” reforms to reduce carbon emissions. Given rising inflation and the conflict in Ukraine, the assignments is difficult. Ms. Borne acknowledged “the challenges ahead of us are great,” but said she “fully appreciates the responsibility” after being named Prime Minister.
Is Rise of Interest Rates Permanent?
By Saif Al-Abri
Quote: Once the inflation rate returns to normal -expected by next yearinterest rates will likely return to normal .
The recent rise in the interest rate raised several questions, especially after a longterm decline in interest rates. Some said it is the end of low-interest rates and cheap money; others state that things are finally returning to normal, and others argue that this is just a temporary phase. But what is it? To understand whether this is temporary or not, we have to know why interest rates were low and why they are increasing.
elements. In some industrial countries, the working-age population has been decreasing as the population ages, untapped labor like that of China and India has now been utilized, and China›s population is also ageing. Female workers have been included in most economies. This has decreased the growth of the working-age population and labor potential meaning weakening demand and consumption.
Over the past months, inflation rates have skyrocketed. UK inflation rates hit %9.1, a new -40 year high, USA inflation rate hit %8.6, Euro inflation rate hit %8.1, and ASEAN countries are experiencing an inflation rate of %4.4, all above the average rate of %3-1. The cause has been attributed to multiple factors. Some emphasized certain elements over others, but we will not dwell on that. The factors are the rise of energy and commodity prices, supply chain disruption, return of demand, and covid fiscal policies. For the governments to combat inflation, they raised interest rates. This, in effect, reduces the money supply, reducing inflation rates. As such, we›ve seen the USA increasing interest rates by 75 basis points, an equivalent of %0.75+, and the UK increasing interest rates by 25 basis points, an equivalent of %0.25+.
Furthermore, technologies such as electronic commerce have reduced the need for malls, and physical buildings, as we have seen with Britain›s high street shops going extinct. In addition, apps like Airbnb caused a decline in hotel patronage. In summary, new technologies have made the use of resources more efficient. All these factors reduce investment demand and are multiplied by the effect of investors and consumers waiting even more before investing with the expectation that interest rates will fall. Another side into which we will not dive is the rise of saving. Now, we have all this money that›s not being used and absorbed back into the economy. To keep the economies flowing and stimulate demand and investment, the governments have reduced interest rates to increase the money supply in the economy and stimulate activity.
However, this rise of an interest rate rise is temporary. Once the inflation rate returns to normal -expected by next year- interest rates will likely return to normal. This is because the cause of the decrease in interest rates is a structural one. Over the past decades, the opportunity for growth and investment has declined. This is due to technological and demographical
Due to covid’s not having changed any structural and societal institutions, it is hard to believe that things will miraculously change and that interest rates will return to normal as if the economy were fixed. Expected interest rates are higher, but this is just temporary. In all probability, interest will return to its sluggish tendency after inflation rate returns to %3.