__MAIN_TEXT__
feature-image

Page 1

India Seeks Gulf Support to Battle Deadly Covid-19 Second Wave

Israel and Iran Are Pulling U.S. Toward Conflict

A Weekly Political News Magazine

2

Issue 1850- April- 30/04/2021

Abdullah Al-Mudayfer: The Third Saudi Broadcaster to Interview Saudi Crown Prince A Weekly Political News Magazine

Issue 1850- April- 30/04/2021

www.majalla.com

The Fake Syrian Elections www.majalla.com


Editorial

A Weekly Political News Magazine

www.majalla.com/eng

Editor-in-Chief

Syrian President Bashar Assad recently submitted his application to run for the coming presidential elections scheduled on May 26. This election is largely seen as a “farce” or a “sham” as it aims at faking legitimacy and confirming that Assad will hold on to power, along with his sponsors, Russia and Iran. In this week’s cover story, Hanin Ghaddar addresses the regime’s attempt at pretentious legitimacy, the international denunciation of the elections, and the issue of voters residing in territories that are not under Assad’s control. The whole world watched the horrific scenes that came from India last week. The drastic collapse of the health system in the “pharmacy of the world”, which was manufacturing and delivering vaccine shipments to various countries, has left everybody in a shock. Yet global solidarity has seen a shift in positions where many countries which have been receiving Covid vaccines and essential medications from India are now providing supplies to assist the broken system and help the country get through its worst wave of the deadly pandemic. Meera Ravi writes about the efforts exerted by GCC governments and Indian diaspora in the Gulf to help save lives and people in need of urgently-needed oxygen and medical supplies in India. 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.

2

30/04/21

Ghassan Charbel Editorial secretary Mostafa El-Dessouki HH Saudi Research and Marketing (UK) Ltd 10th Floor Building 7 Chiswick Business Park 566 Chiswick High Road London W4 5YG Tel : +44 207 831 8181 Fax: +44 207 831 2310

‫الوكيل اإلعالني‬ ،www.alkhaleejiah.com :‫موقع إلكتروني‬ hq@alkhaleejiah.com :‫بريد إلكتروني‬ + 9714 3 914440 :‫ دبي‬،920 000 417 : ‫من داخل اململكة‬ +44 207 404 6950 :‫ لندن‬+00764 537 331 :‫باريس‬ +966 11 441 1444 : ‫ومن مختلف الدول‬

- ‫ طريق مكة‬- ‫ حي املؤتمرات‬- ‫مرخص لها الرياض‬ ‫تقاطع التخصصى‬ +44 207 831 8181 :‫ لندن‬- 4419933 ‫ هاتف‬:‫الرياض‬


A Weekly Political News Magazine


4

30/04/21


A Weekly Political News Magazine

22 Navalny Has a Lesson for the World

Issue 1850- April- 30/04/2021

34 The New Age of Autarky

30 The Covid-19 Disaster in India

52 Ancient Living Traditions

56 Don’t Skip Muscle-Building

Workout

42

Egyptian Businessman Calls for Encrypting Football Matches to Boost Industry 5

30/04/21

58

FACTBOX: All You Need to Know About European Super League


S

napshot

Ethnic San Chi women play soccer match Ethnic San Chi women wearing traditional clothes play during a soccer match between the San Chi ethnic group, as part of the Soong Co festival, in Huc Dong commune, Binh Lieu district, Quang Ninh province, Vietnam, 25 April 2021. The match, which has all 14 players playing in traditional clothes with long-sleeved blue shirts, black skirts and headbands, has attracted hundred of visitors )EPA Photos(

6

30/04/21


7

30/04/21


S

napshot

Italy Liberation DAy People take pictures of the Italian air-force aerobatic squad flying over the monument of the Unknown Soldier during the Liberation Day celebrations commemorating Italy’s liberation from Nazi occupation 76 years ago, in Rome, Sunday, April 25, 2021 )AFP Photos(

8

30/04/21


9

30/04/21


10

30/04/21


11

30/04/21


A WEEK ACROSS THE WORLD

IRAN

An Israeli cabinet minister sharpened his country’s warnings against w new nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, saying war with Teh As President Joe Biden explores a possible U.S. return to the 2015 dea programme that his predecessor Donald Trump abandoned, Israel has sweeping curbs to be imposed on sensitive Iranian technologies and pr Iran, which this week resumed indirect talks with U.S. envoys in Vienna violations of the deal in exchange for the removal of sanctions reimpo any further limitations on Iranian actions. Reiterating Israel's position that it does not consider itself bound by th Minister Eli Cohen said: "A bad deal will send the region spiralling into

INDIA Indians struggled to register online for a mass vaccination drive set to begin at the weekend as the country's toll from the coronavirus surged past 200,000 this week worsened by shortages of hospital beds and medical oxygen, Reuters reported. The second wave of infections has seen at least 300,000 people test positive each day for the past week, overwhelming health facilities and crematoriums and prompting an increasingly urgent response from allies overseas sending equipment. The last 24 hours brought 360,960 new cases for the world's largest single-day total, taking India's tally of infections to nearly 18 million. It was also the deadliest day so far, with 3,293 fatalities carrying the toll to 201,187. Experts believe the official tally vastly underestimates the actual toll in a nation of 1.35 billion, however.

JAPAN Japan's J-league has barred fans from 11 upcoming matches in its top two divisions during a Covid-19 pandemic state of emergency starting Sunday (April 25), Kyodo news agency reported, according to Reuters. Japan had earlier declared "short and powerful" states of emergency for Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo as the country struggles to contain a resurgent coronavirus pandemic three months before the Olympics. Big sporting events are required to be held without fans from April 25 to May 11 and the J-League announced on Saturday that seven matches in western Japan, including three top-flight games and two League Cup ties, would be behind closed doors.

AFGHANISTAN The United States is helping to find replacements for American contractors who provide vital services to the Kabul government but must leave Afghanistan under a 2020 agreement, U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said this week, according to Reuters. "The Afghans ... with our help are looking for others to be able to provide that service to them," Khalilzad told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "We're obviously very sympathetic to them to find alternatives." The February 2020 deal reached by the Trump administration with the Taliban required the departures by May 1 of all U.S. troops and non-diplomatic civilian personnel, including U.S. contractors. U.S. President Joe Biden delayed the pullout while his administration reviewed the agreement and Afghanistan policy.

12

30/04/21

EU

The European Parliament has appro terrorist content in less than one h “online”. The law in question targets conten particular live broadcasts” that “inc “provide instructions” or encourag European Parliament press release The parliament members say all su less than an hour from the momen authorities”.


what it would deem a bad hran would be sure to follow. al to contain Iran's nuclear stepped up calls for more rojects. a on reversing its retaliatory osed by Trump, has ruled out

he diplomacy, Intelligence o war."

LIBYA Libya’s new interim Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh will postpone a visit to the country’s east that had been planned for Monday to demonstrate his unity government’s progress in ending years of division between warring factions. His spokesman Mohamed Hamouda said in a social media post that the visit had been postponed without giving details. The delay underscores the continued friction between rival camps in the capital Tripoli, in the west, and Benghazi, in the east, the stronghold of commander Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA).

roved legislation obliging digital platforms to remove hour, in order to “fight the spread” of such content

nt such as “texts, images, sound recordings or videos, in cite, solicit or contribute to terrorist offences” or that ge people “to participate in a terrorist group”, reads an e published after the result of the vote this week. uch content must now be “removed” or “deactivated” in nt digital platforms receive a “removal order from the

SINGAPORE A long delayed travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore will begin on May 26, the two cities said this week, as they moved to re-establish overseas travel links and lift the hurdle of quarantine for visiting foreigners., according to Reuters. The bubble between two of Asia’s biggest financial hubs had been slated to begin last November but was suspended after a spike in coronavirus cases in Hong Kong. The scheme will start with one flight a day into each city, with up to 200 travelers on each flight, Hong Kong’s Commerce Secretary Edward Yau and Singapore’s Transport Minister Ong Ye Ku said at simultaneous press events. Those wanting to travel from either city must test negative for Covid-19 before departure and on arrival. Hong Kong residents can also only fly to Singapore at least 14 days after they have had two doses of Covid-19 vaccine.

MYANMAR Myanmar authorities are seeking to file charges of murder and treason against one of the main leaders of the protest campaign against military rule, the state broadcaster said this week, Reuters reported. Wai Moe Naing was arrested on April 15 when security men rammed him with a car as he led a motorbike protest rally in the central town of Monywa. Myanmar Television, in its main evening news bulletin, broadcast a list of charges being sought against him, including murder and treason, that it said had been filed with police. Wai Moe Naing, a 25-year-old Muslim, has emerged as one of the most high-profile leaders of opposition to the Feb. 1 coup that overhrew an elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi. It is not clear if he has a lawyer.

ETHIOPIA Gunmen killed at least 20 people last week in western Ethiopia, a regional government official said this week, in what he and two residents described as an attack on civilians from the Amhara ethnic group, Reuters reported. The incident occurred in the district of Limmu Kosa, in the Jimma zone of the Oromiya region. At least 20 civilians were killed in the attack, the Oromiya regional government's spokesman Getachew Balcha told Reuters. He said the attackers were from OLF-Shane or Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), a splinter group of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), a formerly banned opposition group that returned from exile after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office.

13

30/04/21


C

over story

The Fake Syrian Elections A Desperate Attempt at Legitimacy Hanin Ghaddar The Syrian elections are coming up in May, and the world has already denounced the results. Knowing that democracy in Syria is nonexistent, and that the brutality of the regime

and its allies often dictate the political course of the country, no one has any doubts that Assad will win, although the majority won’t vote for him. This time, however, the elections are also about the legitimacy of the regime’s supporters – Iran and Russia – and a confirmation to the

14

30/04/21


international community that Assad will hold on to his power.

INTERNATIONAL REACTIONS The Syrian parliament announced that the Syrian parliamentary elections would take place on May 2021 ,26, a move that is expected to help Bashar Assad maintain his grip on power in Syria. According to a BBC report, all of Washington, France, Britain, and the Syrian opposition have denounced these elections as a travesty as Assad is not expected to face serious opposition, despite his lack of popularity and the heavy dependence on foreign forces such as Russia and Iran. “The failure to enact a new constitution is proof positive that the so-called election on May 26 will be a sham,” US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said during a monthly session of the Security Council on Syria. The Assad regime “must take steps to enable the participation of refugees, internally displaced persons, and the diaspora in any Syrian elections. Until then, we will not be fooled,” she said.

A poster depicting Syria›s President Bashar al-Assad superimposed upon the national flag with text in Arabic reading «Syria›s workers are with you» is seen on a window in an upper floor of the historic Hamidiyah souk (market) in the old city of Syria›s capital Damascus on April 21, 2021, during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan. (Getty)

The French ambassador to the UN, Nicolas de Riviere, said that “France will not recognize any validity to the elections planned by the regime at the end of May,” adding that without including Syrians abroad, the elections “will be held under the sole control of the regime, without international supervision” as provided for by a UN resolution. British diplomat Sonia Farrey added that “elections that take place in the absence of a safe and neutral environment, in an ongoing climate of fear, when millions of Syrians depend on humanitarian aid... do not confer political legitimacy, but instead demonstrate disregard for the Syrian people.” However, the Russian counterpart, Vassily Nebenzia, called the idea that some nations have already denounced the results “distressing.” He criticized their “unacceptable interference in Syria’s internal affairs.” After around 400,000 people killed and over

15

30/04/21

This enthusiasm towards elections on behalf of the regime proves that despite the dire economic situation, the regime and its sponsors have decided to manage the crisis, .instead of resolving it half of Syrians displaced, Assad still have the audacity to run for elections; however, this is obviously a decision supported by both Russia and Iran. Without the Assad regime, both these regimes will lose their sway in Syria, and the Syrians will have to keep in mind that these elections are not only about choosing the next Syrian president, but also about who controls Syria, and who dictates its decisions. Without any international supervision or willingness to use these elections as an opportunity to enforce change, Assad will most likely win a fourth term, and Syria’s immediate future will not look good. This is the second time Syria witnesses elections since the beginning of the crisis, but as in 2014, they will be forged and will not be recognized by the international community. The 2014 vote was also the first time in decades that someone other than a member of the Assad family had been allowed to run for president in Syria. This time around, Assad also allowed a few candidates to run against him, in an orchestrated and incredibly obvious manner that left no doubt that none of these candidates are actually opposition, or trying to challenge Assad and his regime.

SIGNIFICANCE AND REPERCUSSIONS This enthusiasm towards elections on behalf of the regime proves that despite the dire economic situation, the regime and its sponsors have


C

over story

Syrians will have to keep in mind that these elections are not only about choosing the next Syrian president, but also about who controls Syria, and who dictates its decisions. decided to manage the crisis, instead of resolving it, same as they are acting next door in Lebanon. These elections mean that the situation in Syria will only get worse as the economy deteriorates further. The question remains as to whether these elections will take place all over Syrian territories, as many parts of the country are outside regime control. What happens then to Syrians in Idlib, Ras El-Ain, Raqqa, Hasaka, among many others, where various forces have more control, such as Islamist factions, Turkey, and Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)? The Syrian regime might make some effort to include some of these areas, but not in a serious and genuine way to include others, but to portray some kind of legitimacy to the elections. However, many do not buy it. The regime knows that, and it is aware of the fake legitimacy these elections will provide. But Assad is not trying to convince the opposition or the international community of its legitimacy or the value of the elections. This charade is tailored and designed to speak to the regime loyalists, who are today finding it difficult to stay loyal, while the country faces a dire economic situation and international isolation. However, these loyalists need to keep believing that their choices are valid, and that the regime is the only legitimate choice –

despite everything. To add more legitimacy, the regime allowed a few candidates to run against him – most of whom are unknown. But it doesn’t’ matter if these candidates were serious or not. What matters is the image – the image of legitimacy – not the core of it, or its meaning. From the Russian perspective, and the Iranian to a certain extent, these elections can be used as

16

30/04/21

Displaced Syrians demonstrate against President Bashar alAssad and the upcoming presidential election in the rebel-held city of Idlib on February 19, 2021. (Getty)


a bargaining chip or a pressure tool against the international community, and gives Assad more time to rehabilitate its legitimacy and power. Meanwhile, the western powers will tire from Syria and its complications, and more priorities will come up, as was the case in the past few years. Western states’ denunciation of the elections and its predicted results is appreciated, but it’s not enough. Assad and his Russian and Iranian

17

30/04/21

supporters do not really care of the international community is convinced of his legitimacy. What Assad needs is more power and time to maintain this power. And that’s exactly what the regime will gain. Hanin Ghaddar is the Friedmann Fellow at The Washington Institute’s Geduld Program on Arab Politics, where she focuses on Shia politics throughout the Levant.


P

olitics

Israel and Iran Are Pulling U.S. Toward Conflict Can Tough Diplomacy Stop Risky Escalation? By Daniel C. Kurtzer, Aaron David Miller, Steven N. Simon Israel and Iran aren’t yet on the verge of a major escalation or war, and continued progress on the Iran nuclear talks in Vienna would likely forestall one, if Israel judges that trying to undermine a deal would exact too great a cost in its relations with Washington. But the factors that might well produce a significant blowup are now

aligning in frightening fashion. An April 11 explosion at the Natanz nuclear facility— presumed to be the work of Israel—was a dramatic salvo in the shadow war over Iran’s nuclear program. In response to the attack, Iran ramped up its enrichment capacity. An errant Syrian missile landed near Dimona in Israel on April 22, and Israel struck back at the launch site in Syria. Such chains of events risk escalating, even unintentionally, to open conflict.

18

30/04/21


The Biden administration, understandably preoccupied with the politics of domestic recovery, has expressed its intention to reenter the 2015 Iran nuclear deal but appears to be in no particular hurry to do so. Yet without intensified U.S. diplomacy designed to restrain both Israel and Iran, the administration could easily find itself drawn into a conflict it neither wants nor needs and that undermines its real priorities at home.

A FRUSTRATED IRAN

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin (L) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu give a statement after their meeting at the Premier’s office in Israel on April ,12 2021. (Getty)

Briefing Congress on April 14, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines identified Iran as one of the four top threats facing the United States. She noted, “We expect that Iran will take risks that could escalate tensions and threaten U.S. and allied interests in the coming year.” That assessment rises in part from Iran’s growing frustrations at home and abroad. Sanctions have devastated the Iranian economy; Covid-19 cases are spiking; and Iran’s maximalist positions—demanding the removal of all U.S. sanctions, including those consistent with the nuclear deal, while refusing to engage directly with Washington—have put sanctions relief out of reach for the moment. To date, Tehran has been quite risk averse in responding to U.S. and Israeli strikes, including the assassination of a top Iranian scientist and the sabotage of Iranian nuclear sites. But that posture could change. Frustrated by the lack of sanctions relief and confounded by the ease with which Israel has penetrated its internal security, Iran may become more willing to take risks—much as it was in 1996, when it attacked a U.S. military installation in Saudi Arabia, and in the fall of 2019, when it struck Saudi oil facilities. Iran’s decision to begin enriching uranium at 60 percent is a clear demonstration that the country has the capacity to get to 90 percent, which is weapons grade, relatively quickly. The fact of this capability by no means suggests that Tehran can build a bomb instantaneously or even has made the decision to do so. But if negotiations fail, Iran will continue to move forward with advanced centrifuges to create enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon. The Israeli government has issued stark warnings that a return to the nuclear deal without changes would be intolerable. If the United States and Iran return to compliance under these circumstances, the potential for escalation might increase. Sooner or later, Israel will likely use military force to try to prevent Iran from weaponizing its enriched uranium—and the United States will be dragged into the conflict.

19

30/04/21

In Netanyahu’s view, the draconian sanctions that the Trump administration imposed on Iran upon its withdrawal from the deal should be given more time to shape Iran’s economy and political decisions. PREOCCUPATION AND CONSTRAINT During his presidential campaign, Joe Biden promised a quick return to the 2015 Iran nuclear accord. He probably shouldn’t have. He is confronting the most daunting task of national recovery of any president since Franklin Roosevelt, and domestic priorities and politics make reentry into the Iran nuclear deal particularly difficult. Complicating the task are the policies of Biden’s predecessor, former U.S. President Donald Trump. The Trump administration imposed sanctions against Iran on human rights and counterterrorism grounds. Because these sanctions are not covered by the nuclear deal, a return to the agreement won’t make them disappear. Iran, however, has demanded that all these sanctions be lifted before it will comply with its nuclear obligations. Little constituency exists in Washington for returning to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran on precisely the same terms as before. Republicans and even some crucial Democrats oppose it. All these factors, combined with the need to reserve political capital for the administration’s domestic agenda, have rendered Biden cautious and averse to taking risks with Iran’s nuclear development.

A DESPERATE CALCULUS Israel’s escalating actions against Iran reflect Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security concerns and his increasing distrust of the United States. Netanyahu does not believe that the United States fully accounts for the threats that Iran’s nuclear program, missile capabilities, and support for terrorism pose to Israel. In his view, the


P

olitics

draconian sanctions that the Trump administration imposed on Iran upon its withdrawal from the deal should be given more time to shape Iran’s economy and political decisions. If, instead, the United States reenters the nuclear agreement without altering it to address Iran’s ballistic missile program or its activities in the region, Israel will find itself in an untenable position. Netanyahu has reasons to be confident in his country’s ability to take these matters into its own hands. Unlike several years ago, when the Israeli military had a restraining influence, Netanyahu now enjoys the support of a hawkish army chief of staff, Lieutenant General Aviv Kochavi. Israel’s military capabilities vis-à-vis Iran are much more advanced than even a few years ago. Israel has secured flight routes over Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states and ordered enhanced fuel tankers from the United States. Together, these advances dramatically improve the Israeli air force’s ability to fly repeated sorties against targets within Iran. In addition, Israel now has access to bases in the United Arab Emirates from which to conduct surveillance or raids against Iran, just across the Persian Gulf. Moreover, escalation with Iran may prove attractive to Netanyahu as he faces domestic problems, including corruption charges and a political stalemate. The Israeli prime minister is too responsible to lead his country to war solely in order to escape his legal troubles. But he does stand to benefit, as the Israeli public would not want to encumber a wartime prime minister with a trial, which would likely be postponed, and as political opponents would be forced to rally around

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines identified Iran as one of the four top threats facing the U.S. She noted, “We expect that Iran will take risks that could escalate tensions and threaten U.S. and allied interests in the coming year.”

him in a national unity coalition.

AMERICA INTO THE BREACH There are no easy options available to the United States to divert a determined Netanyahu from the path of escalation that he is on. Netanyahu believes he knows how to handle Washington. He has considerable support within the Republican Party and among many Democrats; he also has calculated that the Biden administration will not want to jeopardize its domestic legislative agenda by engaging in a public dispute with Israel. Indeed, the only U.S. policy that might deter Netanyahu from the path leading to war would be firm refusal and strong diplomacy. Washington would have to make Netanyahu understand that further escalation with Iran would damage U.S.-Israeli relations and that the administration will not back down in the face of domestic political pressure. At the same time, the administration would need to press the other signatories to the nuclear deal to tell Iran in no uncertain terms that its actions are provocative, that some of its positions in the Vienna talks are unreasonable, and that the clock is running out for returning to full compliance. A firm stance with Israel and tough diplomacy on the nuclear deal just might allow the United States to avert the slide toward dangerous escalation between Israel and Iran.

20

30/04/21

An engineer performs a mechanical test on nuclear equipment as President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani attends opening ceremony of nuclear projects in different regions of the country via video conference on 11th anniversary of National Nuclear Technology Day in Tehran, Iran on April 10, 2021. (Getty)


A firm stance with Israel and tough diplomacy on the nuclear deal just might allow the United States to avert the slide toward dangerous escalation between Israel and Iran. States into a war it did not seek, at a time and place it did not choose. The Biden administration must make a decision. It can bet that a fragile stability will last until its legislative agenda is complete, in which case it does not need to intervene. Or it can step in now, on the assumption that the near-term consequences of a political confrontation with Israel and muscular diplomacy with Iran will be more manageable than the consequences of PARTNERSHIP AT A CROSSROADS a war within the next two years. This week, some of Israel’s most senior security offiIsrael and Iran have temporarily settled into a low level, cials—its national security adviser and director of milicarefully calibrated conflict. Under these conditions, the tary intelligence, along with the head of the Mossad— Iranian nuclear program takes two steps forward and the will visit Washington for intensive talks on Iran against Israelis push it at least one step back. With no brakes the backdrop of Israeli concerns that Washington is not on its policy, Israel is likely to continue assassinations, showing sufficient regard for Israel’s views. According cyberattacks, and bombings in order to hobble the Ira- to Israeli press reports, however, Israeli officials have nian program, frustrate U.S. efforts to reenter the nuclear been instructed not to talk about the details of current deal, and dissuade Iranian authorities from returning to negotiations in Vienna over the nuclear deal. compliance. Israel will also continue to ramp up its mili- The Israeli government, pursuing its own strategy, is working at cross-purposes with a U.S. administration tary capability. The scenario is an ugly one whose long-term stability that sees its objectives as crucial to domestic cohesion may not hold, either because Israel’s real objective and Middle Eastern stability. Netanyahu’s current camis to provoke an Iranian response t‫س‬hat would pro- paign perpetuates the Israeli prime minister’s battles vide cover for an attack on Iran’s facilities or sim- with Democratic presidents and undermines the coopply because neither country’s strategy is as clever or eration that supposedly characterizes the two countries’ finely tuned as it imagines. In September 2019, Iran long-standing alliance. Perhaps U.S. and Israeli interests launched a drone attack on the Saudi oil company Ar- are simply incompatible. Israel’s prime minister surely amco, which took half of Saudi Arabia’s oil produc- has a duty to preserve his country’s security; but so does tion offline in a matter of minutes and caught both Ri- an American president. In the ebb and flow of internayadh and Washington by surprise. Israel cannot know tional relations, the pivotal moments are not always obwhich of its incremental attacks will incur an Iranian vious—but the crisis precipitated by the Israeli governresponse that could lead to spiraling escalation—and ment’s open challenge to the United States surely looks no one knows what level of nuclear enrichment or ac- like one of them. cumulation of fissile material will trigger an all-out This article was originally published on ForeignAfIsraeli assault on Iran. One way or another, escalation will suck the United fairs.com.

21

30/04/21


P

olitics

Navalny Has a Lesson for the World How to Live “an Honest Life in a Dishonest Political System” By Anne Applebaum When Alexei Navalny boarded a plane to Moscow on January 17, he turned his life into a metaphor. He knew it, his wife knew it, and everybody else on the plane knew it. So did the millions of people who had watched his documentary videos, who had seen the witty interviews he did on the plane,

who have since joined demonstrations in his name. So did the leaders of Russia, including the country’s dictator and president, Vladimir Putin. This, Navalny was telling all of them, is what courage looks like. Navalny is Russia’s most important opposition leader, and he was flying home from Berlin after spending many weeks in a hospital there, following

22

30/04/21


A worker paints over graffiti of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny in Saint Petersburg on April 2021 ,28. The inscription reads: “The hero of the new times”. (Getty)

the second or perhaps the third attempt on his life. He’d survived because a German NGO had sent a plane to Omsk to take him out of Russia, because the Novichok nerve agent used to poison him doesn’t always kill you right away, and because the Russian hospital had agreed to let him go, probably on the assumption that he would never return. (For the record: One of the doctors who treated him for poison has since died under odd circumstances, and a hospital official who refused to attribute Navalny’s illness to poison has been promoted to regional health minister.) Unexpectedly, Navalny recovered. Not only did he recover, but he emerged well enough to star, once again, in one of the videos that have made him and his team of researchers famous. He has often targeted members of the Russian elite, picking apart their elaborate webs of corruption, making fun of their money and their taste. In January he targeted Putin himself, revealing the details of the dictator’s lush palace on the Black Sea: an indoor ice-hockey rink, a hookah bar, extensive vineyards, an “aqua-discotheque,” and an elaborate shakedown scheme that paid for it all. That two-hour exposé was released just as Navalny flew back into Russia and was placed under arrest. It circulated as he sat through a “trial” so ludicrous that he mocked the judge out loud, telling her she needed to take more legal courses. The video is still circulating now, as Navalny lies in a prison hospital where he may once again be close to death. As of this writing, it has 116 million views. Nothing is secret about the poisoning, false trial, or harsh imprisonment of Navalny. Like the multiple attempts to murder him, these things are playing out in public, in the open, for everyone to see. While they unfold, Russian prosecutors are seeking to outlaw the organizations he leads, on the grounds that investigative reporting and defense of citizens’ rights are “extremist.” Putin’s overt attempt to destroy a political opponent has a logic: If Navalny is showing his countrymen how to be courageous, Putin wants to show them that courage is useless. This kind of behavior is nothing new: A similarly brazen logic lay behind Putin’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine in 2014, his subsequent annexation of the Crimean peninsula, and his continuing pursuit of a low-level war that still

23

30/04/21

In January he targeted Putin himself, revealing the details of the dictator’s lush palace on the Black Sea: an indoor ice-hockey rink, a hookah bar, extensive vineyards, an “aquadiscotheque,” and an elaborate shakedown scheme that paid for it all. smolders in eastern Ukraine. These aggressive military actions followed a series of prodemocracy, anti-corruption protests that persuaded Ukraine’s dictatorial, pro-Moscow president, Viktor Yanukovych, to flee the country. Putin’s response was part old-fashioned nationalism— the Ukrainians had undermined his vision of a new Russian empire—and part domestic politics. It was intended to show not just Ukrainians but Russians that democracy leads to violence, that anti-corruption protests will be crushed, and, above all, that courage is useless. In fact, once you understand this logic—once you understand that Putin’s main concern is his own survival—many of his otherwise inexplicable actions make sense. They also help explain why he is slowly seeking to dismantle what remains of independent media in Russia, including his decision to make it impossible for the journalists of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty to function in the country any longer. The news service, backed with American money but editorially independent of the U.S. government, has operated out of Moscow for 30 years, ever since Boris Yeltsin invited its reporters in following the collapse of the Soviet Union; soon its Russian service may once again be broadcasting from abroad. Jamie Fly, RFE/RL’s president—recently restored to his job after the Trump administration forced him out—told me that this is happening just as the radio’s journalists are getting more traction with Russian audiences. RFE/RL reporters were on the ground during the demonstrations in Belarus last summer, were with Navalny on his flight back to Moscow, and have covered every aspect of


P

olitics

his trial and imprisonment. Until recently, Putin diplomatically left the news service alone—after all, the United States tolerates the presence of much more heavily controlled Russian state media, including the channel RT—but now Putin cannot tolerate any real journalism at all. The need for regime preservation even helps explain why Russian troops and tanks are once again gathering around the borders of Ukraine. Just as the attempted assassination of Navalny was carried out in the open, this apparent preparation for a new war is happening in the open too. Photographs of Russian missile launchers and tanks, sitting on railcars or standing by the side of the road, are circulating on the internet. Two large warships, and a host of other ships, have arrived in the area as well. According to Janes Defence Weekly, the recent buildup of Russian soldiers in Crimea, as well as in the territory just to the east of the Ukrainian border, represents the largest “unannounced redeployment” of Russian troops since the previous invasion of Ukraine. Russian television hosts, the cutting edge of Kremlin propaganda, are talking up the hoary idea that Ukraine is preparing for war, spurred on by the “Anglo-Saxons”: “The West is preparing for nothing less than war with us” is how one state-TV presenter put it. Putin himself gave a deliberately ominous speech declaring that “the organizers of any provocations threatening the fundamental interests of our security will regret their deeds more than they have regretted anything in a long time.” Presumably this applies whether the “provocations” are real or imaginary.

Putin’s overt attempt to destroy a political opponent has a logic: If Navalny is showing his countrymen how to be courageous, Putin wants to show them that courage is useless.

Russia experts on both sides of the Atlantic, not to mention experts within Russia itself, disagree about whether this military accumulation means that an actual invasion is imminent. Many think Putin is simply playing a game, putting on a show to prove to the Ukrainians and everyone else that he could carry out another bloody invasion if he wanted to. Some believe that he is serious, that he wants to finish the job he started in 2014 and occupy much of southern and eastern Ukraine. Wild and foolhardy though this sounds, Putin might have strategic reasons to take this kind of risk: Road access and water supply to Crimea would be bolstered, Ukraine could lose much of its coastline and ports, and Russia would dominate the Black Sea. Assuming that Putin could take control—and Ukrainians would mount a major response, conceivably including a protracted guerrilla war—he could then turn much of Ukraine into yet another unstable, disputed, lawless territory, permanently

24

30/04/21

Russian President Vladimir Putin talks during a concert marking the 7th anniversary of Crimea annexation, on March 18, 2021 in Moscow, Russia. Tens of thousands of people gathered at Luzhniki Stadium to watch a patriotic concert called “The days of Crimea”. (Getty)


Once you understand that Putin’s main concern is his own survival— many of his otherwise inexplicable actions make sense. They also help explain why he is slowly seeking to dismantle what remains of independent media in Russia

dependent on the presence of Russian troops, much like the “Donetsk People’s Republic” that runs a small slice of eastern Ukraine. The maps of Novorossiya—the new state that Russia could carve out of southeastern Ukraine—that were published back in 2014 are probably still lying around the Kremlin, ready to be used. Another possibility is that Putin himself doesn’t yet know what he wants, or that he will decide as events unfold. If Navalny dies, and if Russians launch mass protests—a spontaneous one was staged in Moscow this week—Putin may need a war to distract them. If Navalny dies, and the U.S. reaction is tougher than he expects, Putin might want a war in Ukraine to prove to the Russian public how little he cares what Americans think. Alternatively, he might just want to test President Joe Biden, regardless of what happens to Navalny. Whereas Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump all believed they could get along better with Russian leadership than their

25

30/04/21

predecessors, Biden is the first president since the Cold War who did not arrive in office planning to “reset” relations with Russia. Biden has already described Putin as a “killer.” Putin, ever mindful of the home audience, may want to see how much Biden really intends to push back. Biden’s team hasn’t yet spelled out what it would do in response. If the U.S. has a scheme to provide defensive weapons to Ukraine, Biden hasn’t announced it. Nor has he announced any planned response, other than more sanctions, to Russian disinformation campaigns in the U.S. and Europe, Russian cyberattacks, or Russia’s use of poison, assassination, and sabotage, not only at home but in the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic, and Germany, among other countries. If Biden has any long-term intention to respond in kind, or perhaps to block the completion of one of Russia’s most important investments—the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which lies under the Baltic Sea—he hasn’t said. So far, the only person who has a coherent strategy for dealing with Putin is Navalny. He described it in a handwritten note he sent to Yevgenia Albats, a Russian journalist and close friend. “Everything will be all right,” he told her. “And, even if it isn’t, we’ll have the consolation of having lived honest lives.” He has already shown his compatriots that it is possible to live an honest life in a dishonest political system. It’s an invitation for others to follow. Dictatorships survive because most people are not willing to pay that high a price. This article was originally published on The Atlantic Online.


P

olitics

India Seeks Gulf Support to Battle Deadly Covid- 19 Second Wave Troubled Economy Threatens Over 10 Million Indians By Meera Ravi On Thursday evening last week, a Sikh prayer house (called gurudwara) in the New Delhi suburb of Indirapuram announced that it would provide free oxygen to Covid19patients until they could be admitted to a

hospital. As news spread, people came in their cars, on foot or rickshaws, desperate for the life-giving gas that the whole of India is desperately short of. By Friday, the pavements and streets around the gurudwara were overflowing with gasping patients,

26

30/04/21


supported by frantic family and friends. Sikh gurudwara worldwide are well-known for their community kitchens called ‘langar’ which feed wholesome food to anybody who comes there. These langars become especially important at times of calamity. As India grappled with the clawing horror of a deadly second-wave surge of Covid19-, this gurudwara put volunteers to work, checking oxygen levels of newly arrived patients and hooking them up to oxygen supply. Most hospitals in India aren›t equipped with independent plants that generate oxygen directly for patients, primarily because they require an uninterrupted power supply, which is a rarity in many states. At the gurudwara, volunteers and donors are keeping the supply going with cylinders purchased or sourced from all over the city and brought there.

PREMATURE DECLARATION OF VICTORY

Oxygen tankers being airlifted on an IAF plane in Dubai. The Indian Air Force had airlifted a total of 12 cryogenic tanks from Dubai to West Bengal over Monday and Tuesday. “Our Indian Air Force team is back in Dubai. They have airlifted the remaining 6 cryogenic tanks to India today. (PTI)

For the past couple of weeks, shocking videos and photos of scenes of utter chaos in India’s hospitals, morgues and cemeteries have captured global attention. Many countries had been led to believe that India had acted decisively and swiftly to beat back the virus. In January 2021, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi even addressed the World Economic Forum in Davos virtually, announcing rather prematurely, that India had circumvented the worst of the pandemic by developing a Covid-specific health infrastructure and trained its resources to fight the virus. For some time, Modi’s words even seemed true. Almost exactly a year ago, in April mid2020, India announced and delivered bulk supply of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and paracetamol to United Arab Emirates and Jordan, as essential Covid- 19 drugs. With his penchant for the clever phrase, Modi called India the “pharmacy to the world”, even sending a corps of 88 doctors and nurses to UAE in May 2020 to support its fight against the virus, a 15 -member army medical team with supplies to Kuwait and

27

30/04/21

The flip side of the coin is that, appalled by their lack of control over health resources, many expats are either coming back to the Gulf or delaying their return to India. supplies of HCQ to Bahrain. India was also in the news for its large-scale donation of vaccines as the country is one of the global hubs of vaccine manufacture. India-manufactured AstraZeneca vaccine is being administered in the Gulf countries, which early on bought consignments for use in their vaccination campaign External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla were, at that time, in constant touch with their Gulf counterparts.

RETURN OF GULF NRI At some point in mid2020-, Indian missions in the Gulf started registering non-resident Indians or NRIs who wished to return home and this ultimately saw a rush of over 870,000 expats returning to the Southern state of Kerala alone. Of them, as many as 5,67,138 officially cited loss of job as the reason for returning, according to the department of Non-Resident Keralites Affairs (NORKA). The flip side of the coin is that, appalled by their lack of control over health resources, many expats are either coming back to the Gulf or delaying their return to India. One Bahrain-based businesswoman wept as she described how her millionaire ex-Army father was left gasping for lack of oxygen and later, how they had to guard his body in an overcrowded cremation site to prevent it being unceremoniously shoved into a pile. “Ordinarily, he would have received a war veteran’s flag-draped send-off but we were reduced to hastily cremating his remains in


P

olitics

a place as crowded as a railway station,” she said. S Irudaya Rajan, an expert on international migration and the chair professor at the Ministry of Overseas Indian affairs research unit on international migration at the Centre for Development Studies in Thiruvananthapuram, says although returning numbers are high, NORKA estimates are way too high. “There were about 10 million Indians in the Gulf nations and at best 500,000 of them would have returned, although even that will make it the highest in the past 50 years,” he says, “Moreover, the situation is fluid - tens of thousands have already gone back to their places of work, some of them even with new jobs.”

GCC TIES TO RESCUE From being a benevolent Big Brother on top of the pandemic game, dispensing drugs and free vaccines, India has swiftly slipped to urgent crisis-level similar to what Italy and New York went through in 2020. At this point, PM Modi’s careful wooing of the energy-rich West Asian neighbourhood has borne fruit in tangible and intangible ways. Besides the now-cliched lighting up of

The Indian diaspora in the Gulf, which usually throws itself into relief operations, has been somewhat sluggish this time, largely because of very strict money transfer laws governing charity drives.

the Burj Khalifa in the Indian flag colours as a show of support, even the Abu Dhabi Bourse was lit up in tricolour to symbolically show the economic and commercial links between both countries. Although they kept travel corridors warily open, Gulf airlines were swift to demand additional tests and health certification from travellers to and from India. India has sought help from various countries under ‹Oxygen Maitri› to replenish its dwindling oxygen stock. The Indian Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and Ministry of Defence (MoD) have identified several countries for procurement of high capacity tankers and oxygen gas cylinders. The Government is coordinating with Singapore and UAE to lift high-capacity tankers by Indian Air Force transport planes. The governments of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait have pledged support and already sent the first batch of aid

28

30/04/21

In a New Delhi suburb, a gurdwara management has promised to provide free oxygen to patients until they can be admitted to a hospital. Teams of volunteers check oxygen levels of newly arrived patients and provide what they need. (AP)


The BAPS Hindu Mandir in Abu Dhabi is working to create a supply chain of oxygen tanks and cylinders which will provide upwards of 440 metric tonnes of liquid oxygen per month starting last Wednesday.

to struggling India. Saudi Arabia is shipping 80 metric tonnes of liquid oxygen to India, in cooperation with the Adani group and British multinational company Linde. Last week, India sent a military aircraft to the UAE to transport oxygen containers back for use in its hospitals. The aircraft flew six empty cryogenic containers from Dubai according to media reports in India. The containers will be used to store liquid oxygen that will go on to be used to help patients with Covid19- to breathe. The Indian diaspora in the Gulf, which usually throws itself into relief operations, has been somewhat sluggish this time, largely because of very strict money transfer laws governing charity drives. However, this has not stopped the Abu Dhabi Hindu temple, which is the first of its kind and the Dubai Guru Nanak Darbar Gurudwara from leading efforts of Indians in the UAE to send oxygen support for Covid19- patients

29

30/04/21

back home. The BAPS Hindu Mandir in Abu Dhabi is working to create a supply chain of oxygen tanks and cylinders which will provide upwards of 440 metric tonnes of liquid oxygen per month starting last Wednesday. “This oxygen will be provided to the needy through the government and BAPS’s own network of Covid hospitals,” stated Swami Brahmaviharidas. He said the first round of relief being sent this week will include 44 metric tons of liquid oxygen, 30,000 litres of medical oxygen gas in 600 cylinders and 130 oxygen concentrators. “Logistical support for these humanitarian efforts is being provided by the Transworld Group via air and sea.” The Guru Nanak Darbar Gurudwara is also pitching in with a monthly supply of 10 oxygen containers, said Surender Singh Kandhari, chairman of the Gurudwara. “We have already organised it. Our first shipment will go on Saturday or Sunday,” he said. “We are going to support the people who need oxygen in Delhi and Punjab.” Keenly aware of its status as a newlyinfluential and powerful player in West Asia, the Indian government has turned down all offers for cash donations. A spokesperson of the Indian Consulate in Dubai clarified that India has not asked for cash donations. He said the mission has directed those who expressed interest to support with oxygen to the Indian Red Cross Society, which is working with the health ministry in India for the distribution of medical oxygen.


P

olitics

The Covid -19 Disaster in India

Chronicles of Agony and Pain on the Ground Ritu Mahendru with Inshah Malik As the tsunami of Covid-19 cases hit the second most populous country in the world, an unprecedented situation is unfolding for the current generation of Indians who have not witnessed chaos at this level. Uncountable bodies have piled on the streets; people are struggling to find spaces at funeral grounds for

their loved ones as pyres are being built in makeshift crematoriums. There is an acute shortage of oxygen across the country, which is generating a public health nightmare. Public images abound of people experiencing a catalogue of mistreatment and denial of justice, the trauma of which will remain etched in memories for decades to come. The human catastrophe paints a grim picture,

30

30/04/21


Brother of a person who died of COVID-19 performs rituals during cremation in Gauhati, India, Tuesday, April 27, 2021. Coronavirus cases in India are surging faster than anywhere else in the world. (AP)

where people are left to die and families are pleading with the hospital authorities for their relatives who are desperately ill. Even as cases spiked, the country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi remained in data denial. Modi hosted huge political rallies without wearing a face mask, flouted social distancing, and endorsed mass gatherings by thanking the public for turning up in huge numbers. His government encouraged thousands of Hindu pilgrims to gather along the Ganges River for the Kumbh Mela festival, which started in January and ran well into April. Huge errors were at play, which could have been avoided, had the government not taken a nonchalant attitude toward the virus, with no planning, social support, or accountability. Instead, the Modi government deliberately ignored the scientific figures and endorsed traditional methods as the cure to the virus. The country has recorded the highest one-day tally of new Covid-19 cases anywhere in the world – a record it has broken again and again over recent days. India is also seeing its highest number of deaths per day since the pandemic started. “There are no hospital beds,” lamented Pradeep Sharma standing outside Vimhans Nayati Super Speciality Hospital in Lajpat Nagar, New Delhi. “I have just come here for my 46-year-old, brother who was diagnosed with Covid-19 at Dheendyal Hosital in West Delhi. I am here because they ran out of beds there too.” “I don’t know what to do,” he said, covering his eyes with both hands and crying unconsolably. “He needed Remdesivir [an anti-viral drug used to treat Covid-19 patients in hospitals] because he had clots in his lungs. The medicine is not available in the hospital and at the pharmacies. Remdesivir is not available anywhere in Delhi. I bought six of these from a black market,” Sharma further added. As recently as March 2021, Modi staked a claim for India to function as a “world pharmacy”; however it is now struggling to provide crucial medicine to its own citizens. A report from India suggested that Delhi police had arrested many pharmacists for illegally stocking Remdesivir to be sold in the black market. The second wave of Covid-19 is driven by a double mutant variant, but the damage has been compounded due to the negligence of Modi and his government. After the first wave, the Indian government almost immediately declared its victory over the virus, diminishing the pandemic’s seriousness instead of

31

30/04/21

The sudden deaths of hundreds and thousands of poor Indians are not an outcome of the pandemic alone. This is the result of systemic apathy and mismanagement in the medical system – a system that is oblivious to the needs of the poor. continuing to be combating it. Now drug and oxygen shortages have brought the country’s health care system to its knees. In the early hours of April 21, Sharma’s brother died at the hospital: My brother died at 4:00 a.m. in the morning and I only discovered this at 10:00 a.m. when I arrived at the hospital with Remdesivir. The hospital did not inform me because there were 30 other families whose relatives had died at the same time. I was angry and wanted to speak to the manager because I could not find my brother’s mortal remains, but the hospital had hired bouncers who pushed me around. When I did manage to find my brother in a mortuary there were tons of bodies lying around on top of one another, due to lack of space. Then I found my brother’s dead body that was covered in a white sheet. I had to step on other dead bodies to get to him. I was only allowed to take his body to a crematorium approved by the hospital in their ambulance. But the crematorium had run out of wood. We started collecting weeds and grass that we used to cremate my brother. While this article was being written on April 24, Sharma also lost his father to Covid-19. Still in shock, he told The Diplomat: “There is no space left in funeral grounds and I have been asked to keep the body at home for two days. I am in the queue. No one wanted to help me carry the body due to the fears of catching the infection. My friends and relatives all refused to touch the body. There is no space in the mortuary and my father’s body will be at home until I have worked something out.” The sudden deaths of hundreds and thousands of poor Indians are not an outcome of the pandemic alone. This is the result of systemic apathy and mismanage-


P

olitics

ment in the medical system – a system that is oblivious to the needs of the poor. “There are bodies piling everywhere. Everyone I know is infected, including my daughter and I. How did we get here?” lamented Puja, who lives in Delhi. “Modi ne akhirkar India ko sadak pe utar hi diya” – after all, Modi has brought India to its knees. During the first wave, the government’s social protection measures had massive holes, leaving many without any safety net. Puja runs a small boutique from her home as an informal worker and was not covered under the government’s social protection scheme during the first wave. Her work was significantly affected, and she had to

As recently as March 2021, Modi staked a claim for India to function as a “world pharmacy”; however, it is now struggling to provide crucial medicine to its own citizens.

take loans from friends to pay salaries for her staff, who belong to marginalized classes and are at risk of losing their homes. “I have no savings left and money to pay for my daughters’ education,” Puja told The Diplomat. She feels that the “Modi government did not do enough for women in similar situation. We were left to fend for ourselves with no social support.” During this time, Puja also discovered that she had benign tumors in her abdomen. She “was waiting for the money to come in, to get the tumors to be surgically removed.” When she was finally able to generate funds, the second wave hit, which meant she is not in the list of priority patients. Puja will have to wait until things normalize before she can access medical care. “I have these lumps in my belly that I can feel. They are bulging. The doctor said two weeks ago that I must get operated [on] as soon as possible but I didn’t have funds and now there are no beds,” she explained. At a time of global emergency, it was vital that the crisis response must not leave anyone behind. Yet the pandemic affected some communities more than others and the social protection responses by the BJPled government have ignored the particular needs of women and minorities. We are seeing more and more reports showing how the humanitarian crisis has sur-

32

30/04/21

Patients breath with the help of oxygen masks inside a banquet hall temporarily converted into a Covid19coronavirus ward in New Delhi on April ,27 2021. (AFP)


Supporters wave towards a helicopter carrying Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi upon his arrival at a public rally during the ongoing fourth phase of the West Bengal’s state legislative assembly elections, at Kawakhali on the outskirts of Siliguri on April 10, 2021 (AFP)

reptitiously contributed to inequalities and exacerbated current vulnerabilities of women and Muslims. Muslim communities were never specifically considered under the social protection schemes despite the vulnerabilities faced by them. Widespread discrimination, including unequal wages and restrictive labor laws, coupled with a lack of social protection relating to unemployment and sick leave for informal workers have long hindered women and Muslims from accessing employment. These existing inequalities have been made even worse by the virus, resulting in adverse health and economic impacts. A Muslim vendor working in New Delhi reported that a Muslim religious gathering of Tabligi Jamat sparked more social ostracization of Muslims after scapegoating from Modi and his government’s supporters: “No one wanted to buy vegetables from us anymore because we are Muslim because of the fear created by Modi that we are spreading the virus. But not one showed anger towards Hindus gathering in large numbers that might have caused this chaos.” The biggest task for the Modi government now is to keep the Covid-19 numbers low, given the peak is yet to come. The testimonies of people’s suffering suggests that Modi is losing his creditability. Social media hashtags #ModiResign #ModiMadeDisaster are gaining steam.

33

30/04/21

We are seeing more and more reports showing how the humanitarian crisis has surreptitiously contributed to inequalities and exacerbated current vulnerabilities of women and Muslims. With the current government’s failure to act, the fissures in Indian society are likely to expand and could become divisive. The fears of ordinary Indians are mounting, and not just in terms of this medical emergency. The political fall-out from the uncontrollable death toll will add to the rising angst among the suffering population. It’s hard to say if Modi’s days are numbered, given his previous popularity in this Hindu majority country. However, media coverage of his ongoing debasement can’t be ignored. There is an awakening underway amid this humanitarian crisis. This article was originally published in The Diplomat.


E

conomy

The New Age of Autarky The Big Three’s Quest of Economic Self-Sufficiency By Scott Malcolmson The most striking geopolitical feature of the past four years has not been bipolarity or multipolarity—or even great-power conflict. It has been the spectacle of major economies pursuing self-sufficiency and a partial retreat from globalization in order to ensure their security, innovative capacity, domestic stability, and economic prospects. The United States, China, and India are each now engaged in what seems like a paradoxical enterprise: the quest to increase their

global status while also turning inward to become more self-sufficient. After the Cold War, the conventional wisdom held that a global economic convergence was inevitable— that countries would only grow more economically interdependent. In hindsight, it is clear this was not the case. Yet few would have predicted even a few years ago that three of globalization’s leading beneficiaries would turn to variations of autarky— or that a global trend toward self-sufficiency would come to dominate geopolitics.

34

30/04/21


China, India, and the United Statess are now the world’s three most populous countries and its largest economies. Together, they account for about 60 percent of the global economy, a far greater share than they did during the Cold War era. Yet the United States under President Donald Trump embraced “economic nationalism,” while China under President Xi Jinping and India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi opted for “self-sufficiency”: zili gengsheng in Mandarin and atmanirbhar in Hindi. Unlike most major economies, all three countries have increased their GDP per capita over the past decade while reducing their trade exposure, as measured by their trade-to-GDP ratio. This pattern of differential globalization points to the rise of a new autarky that could prevail among these major economies for the next decade or more.

AN AUTARK TRADITION?

Robin Li (or Li Yanhong in Chinese), founder, chairman and CEO of Baidu, introduces the new AI-powered digital assistant «Duer» during the 2015 Baidu Technology Innovation Conference on September 8, 2015 in Beijing, China. (Getty)

Although they embraced globalization in the 1990s and the first decade of the new millennium, all three would-be autarks have long-standing traditions of relative isolation from world markets. The United States has always been an importer of capital and labor and an exporter of commodities, but its main source of growth has been its domestic market. In the 1960s, trade accounted for just ten percent of U.S. GDP, not far off from the rigidly autarkic communist societies of the Soviet Union (four percent) and China (five percent). The United States was unique among its rich peers in this respect. Other wealthy countries with smaller domestic markets had much higher trade-to-GDP ratios in the 1960s—25 percent in France, for instance, and 41 percent in the United Kingdom. The United States grew steadily more globalized until 2011, when its trade-to-GDP ratio peaked at nearly 31 percent. It has since declined to 27 percent, and President Joe Biden’s policies seem destined to continue this downward trajectory. Self-sufficiency has long been a goal in China as well, albeit an often elusive one. From the late seventeenth century to the mid-nineteenth century, imperial China cultivated the productivity of its domestic market, as well as a controlled but lucrative export sector. But its internal march of progress ended abruptly with the beginning of the Opium War in 1839, when China entered a “century of humiliation” at the hands of foreign powers. This century ended in 1949 with the Chinese Communist Party’s victory over its nationalist rivals and their foreign supporters, notably the United States. But as early as 1945, communist leader Mao Zedong stressed the nationalist and sovereign aspect of self-reliance: “On what basis should our

35

30/04/21

China and India have very large labor markets with high levels of mobility, low levels of worker organization, strong top-down policies that disperse industry geographically, and cultures that value skill and entrepreneurship. policy rest? It should rest on our own strength, and that means ‘regeneration through one’s own efforts’ (zili gengsheng).” President Xi Jinping revived this idea in 2018, claiming that “unilateralism and trade protectionism have risen, forcing us to travel the road of self-reliance.” In this spirit, Xi has championed the development of a high-technology military-industrial base that will prevent a second humiliation of China, this time by the power of U.S. technical innovation. Like the United States and China, India has nurtured a vision of itself as a nation that can prosper on the strength of its large domestic market, with a judicious measure of exports. India produced almost a quarter of global GDP around 1700, according to historians, but then endured two centuries of humiliation during which the United Kingdom steadily degraded its industrial base in order to extract raw materials and create a market for British manufactures. After independence in 1947, India developed a governmentled semi-autarky under the guise of “nonalignment,” which began as a political and military policy but grew into a development model that embraced the then fashionable ideas of infant-industry protection and import substitution. India began to open its economy in the early 1990s, but through a managed process that became increasingly Hindu nationalist after Modi’s election as prime minister in 2014. Home to almost 18 percent of the world’s population, India remained committed to nonalignment through the era of globalization, making use of both Chinese and U.S. technology and investment to develop its own alternatives. The goal of Modi’s atmanirbhar is to achieve something like China’s level of indigenous innovation and self-sufficiency, creating a secure home base from which Indian companies can pursue foreign business, much as their Chinese (and, more distantly, U.S.) predecessors have done.


E

conomy

COMPETITIVE SELF-SUFFICIENCY China, India, and the United States all have traditions of self-sufficiency that set the stage for the recent turn toward autarky—but more proximately, all three nations are responding to new security concerns that have emerged as competition among major powers intensifies. China’s core narrative since the 1980s has been security based, focusing on a return to greatpower status after its subjugation at the hands of Western powers and then Japan. In 2015, Beijing announced a policy of “civil-military fusion,” which explicitly framed national-industrial development as part of China’s plan to free itself from dependence on outside powers and secure a future of technological self-sufficiency. ? Confronted with China’s military modernization and the extraordinary success of its technology sector, the United States began to find the presence of Chinese technology in U.S. defense supply chains alarming and became increasingly suspicious of China’s role in constructing Internet infrastructure around the world. The prospect of large swaths of the digital world map falling under Chinese influence pushed the United States to take a much more security-driven approach to China’s economic rise. Soon, both nations began to exert more government control over even the most dynamic and globalized parts of their economies. China brought its tech giants to heel through a campaign of “rectification,” while the United States engaged in a bipartisan “techlash” against the power of Silicon Valley. Security concerns are increasingly driving India’s tech

This new globalization will be based as much on self-sufficiency as on openness, and it will replace internationalism with nationalism, mercantilism, and something approaching imperialism.

policies as well, as Modi’s government pursues what might be characterized as “digital nonalignment.” Over the last 20 years, Chinese tech companies and venture capitalists, and to a lesser extent their Western counterparts, built much of India’s tech sector and infrastructure. Now that Indian tech companies are able to compete, however, Modi’s government has begun to manage the foreign presence—in the Chinese case, even expel it—with the goal of fostering India’s technological self-reliance and safeguarding Indian security.

THE AUTARK DIFFERENCE All three of these countries have found autarky a viable response to increasing security concerns in part because of the size of their economies. They have large enough domestic markets to sustain broad diversification across industries without sacrificing the benefits of specialization—in other words, to be relatively self-sufficient. But size alone does not explain how these countries have managed to become less dependent on trade while most other large economies have become more dependent on it.

36

30/04/21

A worker works on an automated production line in a clean 10,000-grade dust-free workshop in Dongguan, Guangdong Province, on April 22, 2021. The company is a national high-tech enterprise specializing in the research and development, production and sales of key core optical devices, optical modules and automation equipment in the field of optical communication transmission. (Getty)


While political forces seem likely to reinforce the trend toward economic nationalism, market forces could work in the opposite direction. Autarky stifles innovation and, by extension, long-term growth.

In India and China, culture, industrial policy, and other structural factors have further facilitated an autarkic turn. Both countries have very large labor markets with high levels of mobility, low levels of worker organization, strong top-down policies that disperse industry geographically, and cultures that value skill and entrepreneurship. They also have at least two generations of businesspeople who believe that their prosperity depends on participating in global value chains, acquiring intellectual property, and selling products into the domestic market. These qualities are not unique to India and China, but India and China are the only countries that combine them with large domestic markets and active government support for local companies. The governments in both countries not only protect domestic firms from foreign competitors but also work to prevent companies from monopolizing particular sectors at home. In this way, they preserve at least some of the benefits of domestic competition. Nonetheless, China and India depend on aspects of the networked, globalized economy. They are both deeply enmeshed in the disaggregated global supply chains that made their growth possible. Their engines of

37

30/04/21

prosperity were not the huge state-industrial projects that powered the rise of Japan and South Korea in an earlier era of globalization but rather the networked, mix-and-match world of replaceable vendors competing across borders for each and every link in the global supply chain. Yet as Xi said in a July 2020 speech to entrepreneurs in Beijing, what differentiates China from other countries is its “domestic superlarge market,” which he intends to boost “through the prosperity of the domestic economy and unblocking the domestic cycle . . . [to] drive the recovery of the world economy.” Self-sufficiency, in this sense, is an objective of Chinese foreign policy. Among other things, Xi intends to harness domestic demand for final and intermediate goods to make his country a sustainable, protected, and controllable market that can engage internationally at its discretion. His aim is not globalization, in other words, but a globalized, networked mercantilism, which is also the goal of Modi’s atmanirbhar. The picture is somewhat different in the United States, where the slide into economic nationalism has stemmed less from cultural or structural factors than from rising popular dissatisfaction with neoliberalism, which in turn helped build political support for new industrial policies. Trump’s “economic nationalism” mostly manifested itself in the form of detrimental tariffs and trade wars (his campaign promises of major infrastructure spending never materialized). But these policies broke the spell of globalization—and at a seemingly low price. U.S. consumer confidence hit a historic high prior to the Covid19- pandemic, while unemployment hit a low of 3.5 percent. Average worker pay grew by three percent annually in the first three years of Trump’s presidency. Job gains went disproportionately to Black and Hispanic Americans, particularly women, bringing excluded groups further into the economy. Middle-class incomes grew, and GDP growth outpaced that of peer economies. Trump’s apparent economic success helped legitimize


E

conomy

the idea of government intervention in the economy. In 2020, Jake Sullivan, a veteran of the Obama administration who would soon be Biden’s national security adviser, cowrote an article in Foreign Policy observing that “advocating industrial policy (broadly speaking, government actions aimed at reshaping the economy) was once considered embarrassing—now it should be considered something close to obvious.” On the campaign trail, Biden promised to spend 400$ billion on procurement in a “Buy American” policy and 300$ billion on state-directed research and development aimed at increasing technological self-reliance and securing the defense-industrial base. Now that Biden is in office, his administration has advocated enormous investments in increasing domestic capacity, particularly in infrastructure. “Not a contract will go out,” Biden said as he unveiled his 2$ trillion infrastructure proposal, “that will not go to a company that is an American company with American products, all the way down the line, and American workers.”

THE INNOVATION CHALLENGE How long this new era of autarky will last depends in part on the length and intensity of major-power competition. The “Big Three” governments will likely continue to push for self-sufficiency for as long as there is heightened security competition—which in the case of the United States and China, and of India and China, could be a very long time. But while political forces seem likely to reinforce the trend toward economic nationalism, market

In the United States, the slide into economic nationalism has stemmed less from cultural or structural factors than from rising popular dissatisfaction with neoliberalism, which in turn helped build political support for new industrial policies.

forces could work in the opposite direction. Autarky stifles innovation and, by extension, long-term growth. India’s hopes for sustained growth hinge on the continued good fortunes of its information technology sector and its capacity to innovate. The U.S.-Chinese rivalry is itself propelled by the imperative to innovate, in the sense that each country fears the other will outdo it technologically and thereby militarily. But innovation often requires heavy private investment—especially in India, which lacks the government and academic research and development infrastructure of China and the United States—and private investment requires markets. The logic applies to China’s Huawei, which built itself in foreign markets, as much as to the United States’ Qualcomm, which gets two-thirds of its revenue from China. U.S. tech giants earn roughly half of their revenues in foreign markets. Without such revenues, large tech companies struggle to finance their own R & D while also maintaining their competitive edge. And of the top ten large U.S. companies with China exposure, only one—Wynn Resorts—is not a highly innovative tech company. The technologies that these U.S. companies produce, and which China consumes,

38

30/04/21

A pedestrian walks past an Apple store in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Monday, April 26, 2021. Apple Inc. is increasing its U.S. investments by 20% over the next five years, allocating $430 billion to develop next-generation silicon and spur 5G wireless innovation across nine U.S. states, after outstripping its growth expectations during the pandemic (Getty)


Major-power autarky is, after all, chiefly defensive and could lead to military conservatism and industrial competition that would benefit everyone. something approaching imperialism.

NOT YOUR PARENTS’ GLOBALIZATION

have military as well as commercial applications, and China’s dependency on them is a source of American leverage. Beijing seeks to undermine that leverage by becoming more technologically self-sufficient. As those efforts progress, U.S. companies on which the U.S. military and the U.S. economy rely will themselves lose revenue. American innovation will suffer unless companies can find alternative markets to replace China. The result will be stiffer competition between U.S. and Chinese tech companies outside of their domestic markets and heightened efforts by the governments of both countries to exert some level of control over technology in order to mitigate security concerns. The United States will focus on richer, allied nations in North America, Europe, and Asia. China and India will focus on the poorer parts of Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and perhaps Latin America. If Western and East Asian companies neglect those regions, then Chinese, Indian, and other non-Western tech companies will increasingly shape globalization in the age of autarky. This new globalization will not be like the old globalization. It will be based as much on self-sufficiency as on openness, and it will replace internationalism with nationalism, mercantilism, and

39

30/04/21

Such a world would not necessarily be more dangerous. Major-power autarky is, after all, chiefly defensive and could lead to military conservatism and industrial competition that would benefit everyone. The greater danger is that major powers might attempt to block their competitors’ access to resources, as China has repeatedly threatened to do with the rare-earth metals necessary for many high-tech products. More subtly, major powers might try to hoard intellectual property or prevent technological diffusion by continuously widening the definition of “strategic resources” to include, for example, anything having to do with artificial intelligence chip design. The United States did something like this to the Soviet Union during the Cold War, prompting both a decline in the Soviet economy and large-scale Soviet industrial espionage. It is hard to see that drama recurring in quite the same way. There are too many important players outside the Big Three who would much prefer technological nonalignment and can generate innovations of their own. Moreover, the autarks’ companies need foreign revenues for their own defense-industrial bases. As paradoxical as it sounds, in that sense, the autark that globalizes best will be the autark that thrives. “Economic self-sufficiency,” the American historian George Louis Beer wrote in 1917, “contemplates a state of war.” The world was then halfway through the worst war in history, a war driven in part by the efforts of major powers to avoid dependence on one another. A little more than a century later, the diffusion and fragmentation of production across borders has made a repeat of this tragedy much less likely. Yet major powers longing for autonomy should be careful what they wish for, as self-reliance can be a source of weakness as well as strength. This article was originally published on ForeignAffairs.com.


A Weekly Political News Magazine

2

Issue 1850- April- 30/04/2021

Abdullah Al-Mudayfer: The Third Saudi Broadcaster to Interview Saudi Crown Prince www.majalla.com


I

nterview

Egyptian Businessman Calls for Encrypting Football Matches to Boost Industry Ihab Talaat to Majalla: Digital Streaming Platforms Boosting Arab TV Drama Menna A. Farouk Egyptian businessman and producer Ihab Talaat called upon the Egyptian government to encrypt all matches of the Egyptian Premier League in order to boost the football industry which has been suffering because of the coronavirus pandemic. “We have many football fans in Egypt who are very fond of the game and would do anything to watch the matches of their favorite teams,” Talaat told Majalla in an exclusive interview in his office in Cairo. Talaat added that if the industry is now worth 500-600 million Egyptian pounds, it would be worth more than 7-8 billion Egyptian pounds after the encryption of football matches. Football across the world lost $14.4 billion (£11.1 billion) during the coronavirus crisis, analysis conducted by FIFA suggested in September 2020. The governing body of the global game said that 150 of its 211 member associations had applied for emergency Covid grants, with one executive describing the situation as “impossible” for FIFA to mitigate alone. Talaat is a famous Egyptian businessman who previously worked as a member of the Egyptian Football Association. He also works in the field of commercial,

TV and cinematic production. His fame in this field came through a TV current affairs program called “El Beit Beitak (This Home Is Your Home)”, which started broadcast since 2004 but then stopped in 2010. He also produced 32 TV series that achieved much popularity.

DIGITAL STREAMING PLATFORMS ARE THE FUTURE Talaat said that coronavirus is reshaping the production industry in Egypt and across the world as digital streaming platforms like Netflix as well as Shahid and Watch iT in the Arab world are gaining much momentum. “Modern digital platforms are the future of drama in the coming period,” Talaat said. “Even before coronavirus and the lockdown, people had become fed up with the idea of watching a TV series of 30 episodes, each episode of 30-minute duration, shown over an hour and a quarter due to the large number of advertisements. This led the audience abandoning TV and opting for the streaming platforms,” he said.

42

30/04/21


Egyptian businessman Ihab Talaat speaking during an interview with Majalla in his Cairo office on April ,24 2021. (Photo by Menna A. Farouk)

Talaat added that satellite channels have been greatly affected by the emergence of these platforms, saying that most series and movies will be watched in the future by the audience on these platforms according to their circumstances and appropriate dates. “This is the language of the market and the upcoming movement of production and media. Whoever is unable to keep abreast of these developments will retreat and disappear from the market completely,” he said. Netflix has seen subscriber numbers surge in 2020 as lockdowns around the world kept people at home where they want to be entertained. Almost 16 million people created accounts in the first three months of 2020, the firm said. That is almost double the new signups it saw in the final months of 2019. Around 18 TV series were broadcast on digital streaming platforms including Shahid and Watch iT during the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

Satellite channels have been greatly affected by the emergence of these platforms, saying that most series and movies will be watched in the future by the audience on these platforms according to their circumstances and appropriate dates. rent affairs show but is thinking about an entertainment program. “The current affairs shows are really making noticeable success in Egypt but I want to do something different since TV is now full of these kinds of shows,” he said. For Talaat, the top current affairs show in Egypt is that which is presented by veteran TV broadcaster Amr Adib.

ENTERTAINING OPTIONS

Talaat said that he is planning to produce three TV series in the coming period that will vary from historical “My successful experience with El Beit Beitak has to light comedy. opened the door for a flood of current affairs shows in Egypt and I am proud of that pioneering experience,” He also said that he is not willing to produce a cur- Talaat said.

43

30/04/21


A

rt

“Retrograde” A Cairo Store that Takes You on a Journey to The Past Salma Adham Do you want to go back in time? Own a classical record or music in different languages? Are you searching for a specific old book or do you want to buy a vintage camera? In the heart of Egypt, in Al- Zamalek district in Cairo, Retrograde store is probably the place where you can find them and dive

into the world of antiques. It is a space for classic vinyl records, rare books, fine art, and vintage electronics.

THE START The store is owned by Clinton Alexander, originally from Texas, the United States who he came to Egypt around 5 years ago to teach art in an international school. As

44

30/04/21


Clinton was doing that, he discovered that he wanted to start his shop. He rented an apartment above an empty shop, so the chance came for him to take the serious step. What encouraged him also is that he had his collection of records and books that he had brought from home. “After I had read all the books and listened to all the records, I decided to put them in this shop so anybody could buy them,” Clinton said to Majalla. The other reason for his starting the store was that Clinton was burned out from teaching and wanted to do something that caould make an income by not spend all the time teaching or working on his artworks. “I am a painter and sculptor, so I wanted to do something where I could be my own boss, so I am working to get money to pay the rent but still have the time to make my art work,” Clinton said. Five persons work in Retrograde - they are art students who were customers and liked the place. Then they offered to help Clinton in his project. Wide shot for Retrograde store from inside, Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt. By: Salma Adham

THE SECRET BEHIND THE NAME Retro means vintage and it comes from the term Retrograde which is an astrological term that means that at certain points of the year, the planet orbits the sun then when it goes in Retrograde, it appears to go backward in time. When Clint thought of the store’s name, he wanted to get one that suited the content of the place. So what is closer to the place that mainly sells antiques more than Retrograde? Retrograde first was smaller and selling only vinyl records and books. What happened was that people saw that there is a place doing that, then they started wanting to sell their records and books and portraits. From there, Clint started to build up collec-

45

30/04/21

“In the beginning, to build my store, I needed to go and search for records and books and find them! Now, people know me, I do not have to go anywhere, people just come to my store with boxes of books and records.” tions. Records are number one, then books artworks, cameras, typewriters and so on whatever the customer wanted but related to the theme of vintage things.

COLLECTIONS “We have a big CD collection - 45-rpm records, cassettes and DVDs like all are absolute technology that nobody uses anymore because now people have their computers and phones, but the most interesting thing is that most of my customers are from 18 to 24 years old, who have all this and can download any of this online without having to buy it, but they want something of their ownwhich speaks of a different era, to put it on the player physically,” Clinton said. In the late ‘eighties, when cassettes came out, people stopped buying records and started owing cassettes. “My collection goes from 1920 to 1989 and then stops, it is very hard to find a record from the nineties,” Clinton told Majalla. There are different genres of records from all over the world such as rock, which is the most popular with five sections, pop, jazz, folk, African music, Arabic music and classical and original audiobooks. Also, original posters for movies, film cameras, and artworks done by fine arts students. In brief, it is like a mix of artistic pieces.


“I guarantee myself that everything here works and you can use it, for example, the cameras, they are beautiful objects but they are all functioning,” Clinton said to Majalla. “Over the past couple of years, I have become like a repairman, a film guy who repairs cameras. So I can check them and make sure they are working properly before selling them and this applies for all the pieces such as books, typewriters, and other electronics,” Clint added.

“In the beginning, to build my store, I needed to go and search for records and books and find them! I went to different antique markets and searched there, but after being in the business for over 3 years now, people know me, I do not have to go anywhere, people just come to my store with boxes of books and records. 90% of most of everything here comes from Cairo,” Clinton stated.

Retro means vintage and it comes from the term Retrograde which is an astrological term that means that at certain points of the year, the planet orbits the sun then when it goes in Retrograde, it appears to go backward in time. 46

30/04/21

Some vintage cameras in Retrograde store, Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt

Section of classical CDs in Retrograde store, Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt


Clinton Alexander, the founder of Retrograde store, standing in his store

Retrograde contains a big section for French books and also a big one for Arabic books and the rest are in English. The sections include different themes like art, philosophy, fiction, history, poetry, drama and politics.

Section of classic fiction books in Retrograde store, Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.

WHY NOSTALGIA Why do people prefer to buy antiques and

There are different genres of records from all over the world such as rock, which is the most popular with five sections, pop, jazz, folk, African music, Arabic music and classical and original audiobooks. old stuff? Some people prefer to live the experience of returning to the past, some like to own things like having a full record for a music album not downloading it online and others, as Clinton said, prefer the physical quality and feel of the things as in dealing with books. “Some people love the smell of the old books,” Clinton explained. Retrograde Instagram Page: https://www. instagram.com/retrograde_store_/?hl=en

47

30/04/21


A

rt

After Surviving the Pandemic Your Moviegoing Experience Is About to Change By Shirley Li When 2020 began, the future of movie theaters looked bright. Seemingly every major Hollywood studio was pursuing its own cinematic universe, and every big-budget film was seeking a sequel. Viewers were promised a slew of surefire hits, including a new Christopher Nolan thriller, Daniel Craig’s last outing as James Bond, and the next era of Marvel movies. “There’s no way one

can say theatrical is dead,” Deadline observed of the year to come. Of course, 2020 put that declaration to the test. The COVID-19 pandemic forced indoor-viewing suspensions, Hollywood’s biggest studios delayed their most anticipated titles, and theatrical windows shrank—or disappeared altogether—to accommodate the boom in streaming services. After earning a record $42.3 billion in 2019, the

٤٨

30/04/21


Audience watching the movie in cinema after the pandemic. (Getty)

global box office tumbled a whopping 72 percent last year. Now, as vaccination rates climb and film-release dates hold firm (for the moment), the industry appears ready to heal. Theaters have been slowly reopening across the country—rehiring employees, introducing new cleaning standards, and installing top-of-the-line ventilation systems according to industry-wide guidelines. Major chains such as Cineworld, the U.K.-based owner of Regal Cinemas, have renegotiated how long films will be shown in theaters before going online, and Godzilla vs. Kong, the CGI-drenched monster mash, drew $48.5 million at the box office its first week. Seeing sold-out showings, even at limited capacity, is a “promising sign,” Seth Parsley, a general manager of a UEC Theatre in the South, told me over email. Milt Moritz, the president of the National Association of Theatre Owners of California and Nevada, agreed: “This is the light at the end of the tunnel we were looking forward to for well over a year.” Still, one film’s success isn’t proof of an entire industry’s resurgence. To survive beyond the pandemic, theaters must persuade moviegoers not just to come back, but to come back more frequently than they did—to start thinking of their local cinema as akin to their favorite coffee shop. Because a return to pre-pandemic habits isn’t enough, industry executives told me they’ve been spending this past year rethinking the role of theaters in the first place. “What we did during our downtime is … spend our energy on things that are going to move us forward and improve the experience of coming to the cinema,” Tim League, the founder of Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas, a Texas-based chain, told me. Moviegoing, simply put, is hoping to meet your post-pandemic needs. Here’s what viewers can expect:

Reopening doesn’t happen with a simple flip of a switch; it requires starting almost from scratch and contending with fresh, pandemicinduced challenges. It’s little wonder, then, that employees working at reopened venues feel conflicted about the industry’s future. “Snacks in a Tap,” a program that allows moviegoers to order concessions online, was one of the company’s priorities in 2020. Alamo Drafthouse did the same, adding to its app the feature to order food in advance. Making every step of the theatergoing experience as contactless as possible has made it even easier to give customers what they’re ultimately looking for these days: “that sparkling-clean environment,” Zoradi said.

2- THEATRE WILL BE MORE PRIVATE.

Don’t expect virtual screenings to continue outside of smaller indie venues. But do expect the private auditorium rentals that theaters began offering during the pandemic to stick around. They’ve been lucrative: AMC hosted more than 150,000 such showings in 2020, as has Cinemark through February of this year, and half of Alamo Drafthouse’s revenue during the height of the pandemic came from such a program. “It’s 1-THEATRE WILL BE MORE DIGI- become very, very, very popular,” Moritz said. “People want to be secure about who’s at the TIZED. theater.” You probably noticed that major cineplexes were And most theaters, he added, will maintain stagmoving in a digital direction long before the pan- gered showtimes to allow for cleaning between demic. Paperless ticketing and online seat reser- screenings and to keep guests comfortable—no vations were becoming common, but the shut- more shoving your way past departing moviegodown provided the opportunity to fine-tune such ers to get to your seat, at least for the time being. services. Mark Zoradi, the CEO of the global Indeed, major chains, encouraged by the success theater chain Cinemark, told me that launching of private screenings, are focused on offering, as

٤٩

30/04/21


A

rt

Zoradi put it, “enhanced” experiences at affordable prices: more reclining chairs, more food and beverage options on the menu, and the ability to have concessions delivered straight to your seat. League told me that the Alamo, already geared toward cinephiles with its strict moviegoing etiquette and celebrity events (Q&As with a cast, for instance, or director introductions to film screenings), has also been building out the company’s video-on-demand feature, which provides content such as director commentary that can be accessed after showings on the Alamo app or at home. “There is pressure to make sure the experience is awesome every time,” he said. “I think every exhibitor feels that.” So do theater employees, who must put in extra effort on the ground to produce that coziness for every attendee. “It’s nothing that I’m not used to, as I am an Avengers: Endgame survivor,” Parsley told me of the extra time he’s spent cleaning theaters between every screening. “But it has made for some very long days.”

3- THEATRES WANT TO BE YOUR FIRST STOP AWAY FROM HOME. It might seem obvious, but theaters depend on frequent moviegoers, defined as those who see a movie at least once a month. In the U.S. and Canada in 2019, they represented about 11 per-

To survive beyond the pandemic, theaters must persuade moviegoers not just to come back, but to come back more frequently than they did—to start thinking of their local cinema as akin to their favorite coffee shop.

cent of the population, yet accounted for 47 percent of all tickets sold. Thus, chains with loyalty programs—for instance, AMC Stubs or Cinemark Movie Club—that offer rewards for regular moviegoers will “reignite,” Zoradi said. “Doing this subscription program was very important, and we’ve stepped up our digital and social-marketing efforts … We think of ourselves not as a theater exhibitor owner, [but] as a very modern retailer, like a Target or a Starbucks.” To that end, executives want to change the way you think about theaters; they want frequent moviegoing to be the norm, not the habit of a dedicated minority. In the post-pandemic era, they see Hollywood’s backlog of blockbusters and audiences’ pent-up need to leave home as unique advantages. Therefore they consider other social settings, not streaming services, as their primary business rivals going forward. “I think we’re an out-of-home experience competing with bars and restaurants and nightclubs,” League said. “Folks who watch a lot of streaming also go out to theaters a lot, and I feel comfortable that that’s not going to be the end of cinema.” AMC’s CEO, Adam Aron, expressed a similar sentiment during an earnings call in February: “I think people are overstating that streaming is somehow going to cause screen closures … We’re not quite as desperate as we were in June of 2020.” And yet …

4- THEATRE MAY STILL CONTINUE TO CLOSE. No theater escaped the pandemic unscathed. The Alamo furloughed more than 5,000 employees and declared bankruptcy to refinance. AMC permanently closed 60 theaters. Cineworld reported a loss of more than $2 billion in 2020; its sites in the U.S. have begun reopening just this month. Cinemark, even with its conservative financial approach, still had to reduce salaries across the board. And though Moritz said he felt “total euphoria” when we spoke after the release of Godzilla vs. Kong, the following week brought news of the closing of ArcLight and Pacific

٥٠

30/04/21

Empty Cinema Seats. (Getty)


theaters, a historic Los Angeles–based chain. “It is a sad day for Hollywood,” Moritz wrote. Reopening doesn’t happen with a simple flip of a switch; it requires starting almost from scratch and contending with fresh, pandemic-induced challenges. It’s little wonder, then, that employees working at reopened venues feel conflicted about the industry’s future. Some have noticed positive changes: Connor, an employee working at an AMC in Colorado who asked to have his last name withheld to protect his job, told me that “things feel mostly normal-adjacent,” with customers being more tolerant of shortcomings. “‘No cash, card only’ is met with understanding instead of anger,” he wrote. “‘Sorry, we don’t have fresh produce right now because of supplychain issues’ is met with acceptance.”

lease delays and slashed theatrical windows. “I can confidently say that at my theater, the decline in business can be attributed to the lack of product,” he said, “and not the fear of COVID.” Movie theaters, after all, will always be beholden to the decisions of movie studios.

Turning the corner in the pandemic doesn’t guarantee stability for theaters. Offering luxurious experiences at affordable prices doesn’t mean audiences will show up in droves every week. And knowing that the worst has passed at the box office doesn’t erase uncertainty about its prospects. Moritz told me he could see 2021 being a “record year” if capacity limits end before the spate of summer blockbusters arrive. League balked at that calculation when I told him, saying the end of the year would be his earliest guess for a healthy industry. Zoradi hesitated before offerParsley, the UEC employee, told me that any is- ing his own prediction. “I would put it a little sues he encountered with patrons paled in com- differently,” he mused. “I would say we’re in a parison to the frustrations—staff layoffs and ‘transitionary’ year … In 2022, we’ll figure out eliminated weekday showings—caused by re- what the new ‘normal’ is.”

٥١

30/04/21


C

ulture

Ancient Living Traditions

Sham El Nessim – Egypt’s oldest festival Amira Noshokaty Sham El Nessim is perhaps Egypt’s oldest festival and comes to us right off the walls of the temples. Ancient Egypt started to celebrate this feast at the end of the Third Dynasty, or around 2,700 BC,. According to the Egypt State Information Service, it was first called the Festival of Shmos (“Resurrection Feast”) in ancient Egypt. However, in Coptic Egypt it was shortened to Sham and the word Nessim (“breeze”) became somehow affiliated with it. According to the Egyptian Archives for Folk Life and Folk Tradition, this festival is also affiliated with the agronomy of ancient Egypt. It is usually celebrated on the 25th of the Coptic month Bramhat as a sign of the new spring/summer cycle and is a reflection of the Osiris doctrine which postulates life after death. Over the ages, Sham El Nessim became associated with a

whole week of Coptic rituals that are concluded with this feast. The week before Sham El Nessim starts off with Palm Sunday when Egyptians usually make a wheat doll which is a mixture of palm leaves and wheat. They would hang it on their doors as a good omen for a prosperous year to come. On Monday they make porridge while Tuesday is for bloodletting (rarely practiced, but once used to get rid of the bad winter blood). On Ayoub (Job’s) Wednesday they follow the tradition of Prophet Ayoub who is said to have been cured after scrubbing with Juniper. On Thursday they make lentils while Friday is named Sad because it is the day that Jesus was pronounced dead. Saturday is the Saturday of light, when Jesus was resurrected. It is also a day where all Egyptians wear Kohl in their eyes in order to protect and enhance their vision in order to see a better year ahead. Then comes Sham El Nessim on Monday. At the crack of dawn on Monday, Egyptians

52

30/04/21


flock to parks, gardens and the banks of the Nile where some take a cruise on a felucca. Then they eat their breakfast which has to include green onions, salted fish, lettuce and eggs, which are usually colored. There was a famous game they played on that day with colored eggs and stones that look like eggs. People would have to guess which is the stone and which is the real egg. Hence came the proverb “he who can play with stones and eggs,” meaning that someone is a deceitful person who can easily trick people. Egypt State Information Service reveals the historic concept behind such food. The colorful eggs are a symbol of life as explained in the Book of Dead and the hymns of Akhenaten. The ancient Egyptians used to write their wishes on eggs and hang them on trees so they see the light and God would grant their wishes. Eating salted fish is a way to pay tribute to the holy River Nile and the food it bestows on Egypt. Fish and lettuce are strongly associated with fertility in Egyptian heritage. As for the green onions, they are known to be a powerful

At the crack of dawn on Monday, Egyptians flock to parks, gardens and the banks of the Nile where some take a cruise on a felucca. Then they eat their breakfast which has to include green onions, salted fish, lettuce and eggs, which are usually colored. remedy and protection against death because one of the ancient Egyptian royals got very sick and was cured by eating green onions. This happened a few days before Sham El Nessim and so they added the onions as one of the main ritual foods when they began to celebrate.

Egyptians walk and picnic along one of the branches of the Nile in the southern town of Mallawi, on April 9, 2018, as they celebrate Sham al-Nessim, a Pharaonic feast that marks the start of spring )Getty(

Egyptian children color eggs in the al-Jazirah village, near the Nile delta city of Mansura, 120 kms north of Cairo, 09 April, 2007, as they celebrate Sham al-Nessim, a pharaonic feast that marks the start of spring. (Getty)

53

30/04/21


Po

rt

ra

it

Abdullah Al-Mudayfer: The Third Saudi Broadcaster to Interview Saudi Crown Prince

By Majalla Illustration by Ali Mandalawi

Abdullah Al-Mudayfer is a Saudi TV presenter, journalist, and former writer working in production, media consultancy, and television. He presents a weekly program called “In the Picture” in addition to the Ramadan program “Al-Liwan” on “Rotana Khaleejia” and “Rotana FM”. Last week, Al-Mudayfer the newsmaker became the news when he landed an interview with the Saudi Crown Prince – only the third journalist to get such access after journalists Turki al-Dakhil and Dawood al-Sharian. The interview was held on April 27th on the fifth anniversary of the launch of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and took place through his program “Al-Liwan” on the “Rotana Khaleejia” channel. The Saudi interviewer was famous for talking boldly with his guests in multiple programs, such as the “Pulse of Speech” program, a previous Ramadan program known as “The core”, in addition to the Friday Meeting program. He also previously hosted elite names in several fields. Born in 1982 in the city of Buraidah in the Qassim region of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, AlMudayfer lived his entire childhood there. He graduated from the College of Sharia and Law which was his first choice of study because he aspired first to work in the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution. Before entering the world of media and television production, AlMudayfer was a writer for the Saudi newspaper,

Al Youm. Al-Mudayfer began his media career through the gateway of drama and experimented with acting and directing and was famous for appearing in conservative films on religious channels such as “Al-Majd”. In 2003, he wrote a script, acted, and directed the Saudi film “The Orphan Imad”, and it was considered at that time one of the first religiously conservative Saudi films which were presented with the recordings of Uhud at the time. He also worked in Uhud’s Production and Marketing before moving from it in 2004. He also wrote and directed the movie “White Hatred”. After his acting and directing experience, AlMudayfer moved to work in television production. With his appearance, the Arab media witnessed one of the most important and daring speakers on the Gulf channels. He was unique in his contemporary presentation on each of the Gulf Rotana screens, Al-Rasala and MBC, and he became one of the most important media professionals in the Arab Gulf. In May 2011, Al-Mudayfer presented about eleven episodes of the “Friday Meeting” program on the Gulf Rotana channel, and in Ramadan 2011 he presented the religious program “Nabd alKalam”(Speech pulse), which discussed several topics on Islamic jurisprudence and contemporary dealing with some Islamic religious teachings and traditions. During Ramadan 2012, he began presenting the program “In-depth” on Rotana Khalijia and AlResala channel, which is a bold talk show for

54

30/04/21

which Al-Mudayfer was subjected to criticism because of his choice of guests topics covered and his frank questions. In late 2013, this program was stopped due to the controversy it caused in public opinion. In 2018, Al-Mudayfer returned to present the first season of the talk show “In the Picture”, which was shown on the Gulf Rotana channel and hosted many people who shared their experiences and visions freely and smoothly. In Ramadan 2019, he presented the dialogue program “Al-Liwan” on Rotana Khalijia and Rotana FM, and broke all the records, making it one of the most-watched programs in the Gulf. In October 2019, he also continued presenting the second season of “In the picture” achieving the same success that this program reached in its first season. During his work, Al-Mudayfer has stood out in direct conversations with figures influencing Saudi and Gulf public opinion and hosted many ministers, princes and senior state men, the most prominent of whom are: Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, the advisor to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and Governor of Makkah Al-Mukarramah Region, Prince Turki Al-Faisal and Prince Al-Walid bin Talal. Although such a public figure, Al-Mudayfer fiercely guards his privacy and that of his family. The newsmaker therefore knows very well how to generate headlines without becoming the news himself!


H

ealth

Don’t Skip MuscleBuilding Workout Easy Exercises to Get You Started With Strength Training 3 Harvard women’s Health Watch Women often skip muscle-building activities, but they›re crucial to your long-term health and independence. If you›re like most American adults who work out regularly, you may squeeze in a daily walk or a quick

run, or take a Zumba or aerobics class. But strengthtraining exercises usually don›t make the list. A 2018 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that only about %30 of American adults ages 18 to 80 are doing strength training twice a week, as recommended. And almost %58 of those surveyed said they did none.

56

30/04/21


Happy senior couple doing push-ups at home )Getty(

It›s a mistake to skip strength training. «People lose between %2 and %5 of their muscle mass every decade after age 30,» says Dr. Beth Frates, clinical assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School. «If you lose %2 per decade, that means you›ve lost %4 of your muscle mass by the time you are 50,» explains Dr. Frates. «That number could be as high as %10 if you lose %5 of your muscle mass per decade.» Maintaining muscle strength is more than just a vanity issue. Having adequate strength helps you do everything from going up and down stairs to carrying your own groceries. People who don›t have enough muscle are more likely to fall, get injured, and have to rely on others as they age. «Moreover, strength training is the best way to change your body composition. If you really want to feel and look different, you can do that through strength training,» says Dr. Frates. Many adults may be skipping muscle-building exercises because they think they need a gym membership or special equipment. Or perhaps they feel intimidated, or simply don›t know where to begin. With this in mind, Dr. Frates designed a quick beginner strength workout to get you started. You can do it entirely at home, without equipment, using just your own body weight. Try to squeeze in this easy workout at least twice a week. Keep it up for the next few months and you should see an improvement in your muscle strength. We›ll include another batch of slightly more challenging exercises that you can use to ratchet up to the next level in later issue.

1-BOOST YOUR ARM STRENGTH Push-ups are an easy way to improve your arm and upper-body strength, says Dr. Frates. You can do these in a standard push-up position, or with your knees on the floor to make the exercise a little easier. Set a goal: Aim to start with five push-ups. Once you›ve mastered that, move up to eight to 12 pushups. If you can do that, do another set. Ultimately you should strive for three sets of eight to 12 push-ups

57

30/04/21

Maintaining muscle strength is more than just a vanity issue. Having adequate strength helps you do everything from going up and down stairs to carrying your own groceries. People who Don’t have enough muscle are more likely to fall, get injured, and have to rely on others as they age. twice a week.

2-STRENGTHEN YOUR LEGS For stronger legs, try performing a reverse lunge. Stand up straight with your feet together and your arms by your sides. (It›s okay to keep one hand on a wall to help balance.) Then step back onto the ball of one foot Young woman and bend your knees, while exercising keeping your back straight at home, stretching legs and your front knee over your )Getty( ankle. Stand up and repeat. Once you›ve done the desired number of repetitions, switch legs. Set a goal: Start by doing one set of eight to 12 repetitions on each side. Over time, increase to two sets, and ultimately to three.

3-SHORE UP YOUR CORE We talked about the benefits of the plank before, because it›s a great way to build upper-body and core strength. You can do this exercise on your elbows with your legs extended in a traditional push-up position, or on your elbows and knees. Set a goal: See how long you can hold the plank initially and then work to increase your time. If you can only do 10 seconds starting out, work your way up to 20. The ultimate goal should be to hold it for a minute at a time.


s

port

FACTBOX: All You Need to Know About European Super League By Majalla

formed? What is its format? And who is financing it?

Twelve of Europe›s top soccer clubs have announced the formation of a breakaway Super League last week. But the breakaway has been heavily criticized by soccer authorities, fan organizations and politicians across Europe.

WHAT IS THE SUPER LEAGUE ?

So, what is the European Super League? Why has it been

The idea of the Super League was for the clubs to remain in their national leagues, but also to play each other in a new midweek European competition, which would have rivalled the Champions League.

58

30/04/21


The ESL is designed so that it has a total of 20 teams, of which 15 founding members are permanent and never face relegation. Five other sides would qualify each year.

WHICH CLUBS ARE INVOLVED The Premier League›s Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur have announced plans to join the competition along with Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Inter Milan, AC Milan and Juventus. It is anticipated that three more clubs will join the breakaway group as founding members of the new midweek tournament, which organizers said would begin «as soon as practicable».

WHAT IS THE PROPOSED FORMAT? The 20 teams would be split into two groups of 10, with each side in a group playing each other home and away in midweek fixtures. The top three clubs from each group would progress to the quarter-finals, with the final two spots earned after a playoff between the teams finishing fourth and fifth in their groups. From quarter-final stage onwards there would be a two-legged knockout ties home and away -- similar to the current knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League -- with a single fixture final at a neutral venue.

WOULD THE LEAGUE BE A »CLOSED SHOP«? The Premier League logo amongst shirts from Premier League clubs on May 2020 ,14 in Manchester, England. (Getty)

One of the biggest points of criticism around the proposal is that only five clubs in the -20strong competition would enter based on «sporting achievements». The 15 founding members would have their participation guaranteed.

HOW WOULD THE LEAGUE BE FINANCED ? U.S. investment bank JP Morgan confirmed on Monday to Reuters that it is financing the new league. In their own announcement, the breakaway clubs said the founding members would share 3.5 billion euros «solely to support their infrastructure investment plans and to offset the impact of the COVID pandemic».

GAME REMADE IN AMERICAN IMAGE In an article published in The New York Times, columnist James Montague weighed in on the reason behind the

59

30/04/21

“But there’s a reason the Super League scheme is coming right now: the coronavirus pandemic. Europe’s leading clubs are thought to have lost more than a billion dollars in revenue since Covid-19 arrived.” announcement of the Super League at this time. “But there’s a reason the Super League scheme is coming right now: the coronavirus pandemic. Europe’s leading clubs are thought to have lost more than a billion dollars in revenue since Covid19- arrived,” he said. He added that everyone from players to supporters to TV pundits to government ministers are re-evaluating how much power the game has ceded to billionaires. “What is clear is that the game is being remade in the American image.” “If the Super League goes ahead, it will be a virtually closed-off European Super League for the world’s biggest teams. What next? Clubs moving like franchises — like the Rams — to the city that offers its owner the best deal. Perhaps Manchester City will play some of their matches in Abu Dhabi? Or maybe Arsenal could spend the winter in Los Angeles? Or Juventus in Beijing?” the writer added. David Goldblatt of The Guardian strongly critiqued the idea, saying that the already corrosive imbalance in most European domestic leagues will be made even greater by this hoarding of the spoils. “The sight of any ruling elite making inequality ineradicable is contemptible, but set against football’s core mythology – of level playing fields and sporting chances – it is an act of cultural desecration.” “No less so, is its careless destruction of 65 years of European football as a grand, inclusive, continent-wide narrative and shared ritual experience,” he said. Meanwhile, columnist Henry Olsen wrote in The Washington Post that “This fiasco is actually the perfect template through which to view the ongoing debate between liberal globalism and national populism. As of Tuesday, it looked like populism won.” He added that according to the UK football system fans believe the clubs are “theirs” in a way that most U.S. fans do not. “Owners are often seen as “trustees” of the club and owe some duty to the fan base — especially to the dues-paying fan base. This is akin to a “stakeholder capitalism” model, which argues that decisions about a firm’s management must consider the interests of all investors, not just the owners,” he added.


The Fake Syrian Elections  

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded