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Gulf Reconciliation Will Bring Positive Regional Impact

A Weekly Political News Magazine

Egypt ’ s Gaza Gas Field Development A Win-win

Issue 1842- March- 05/03/2021

A Weekly Political News Magazine

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Issue 1842- March- 05/03/2021

Sameera Fazili: The second Kashmiri origin woman in US administration

www.majalla.com

Hezbollah’s Poetic Weapon and E-flies Across Social Media

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A Weekly Political News Magazine


Editorial

A Weekly Political News Magazine

www.majalla.com/eng Designated as the military organization serving Iran’s regional aspirations, Hezbollah’s machine of propaganda extends to the realm of social media. An army of electronic flies operates ceaselessly to protect the image of the group’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Hezbollah, motivate their supporters, and defame their opponents. In this, Nasrallah’s second son Jawad, with his up-to-date knowledge of social media platforms, his deft poetic ability and his skills in literary discourse, is the prime operator protecting his father’s image. Jawad’s rise in the party reflects the Hezbollah’s understanding of the potent power of words and their investment in literary devices as a way to strengthen their hold over the hearts and minds of people in the areas where they are present. Will Jawad’s credentials allow for a new political dynasty in Irans’s arm in Lebanon? In this week cover file, our writers Hanin Ghaddar, Hala Nasrallah and Mahdi Karayem provide a deeper look into Hezbollah’s social media operations, the revelation of Jawad’s role and the prospects of succession in the Lebanese group. Last week, U.S. President Biden authorized an airstrike targeting Iranian-linked militias in eastern Syria. His decision came in response to the recent spate of at least three rocket attacks which have targeted U.S. positions in Iraq, one of which killed a non-U.S. contractor and wounded nine other people, including five Americans. In his weekly column, Joseph Braude gives an account of the Congress’ mixed reactions to the decision. Read these articles and more on our website eng. majalla.com. As always, we welcome and value our readers’ feedback and we invite you to take the opportunity to leave your comments on our website.

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Editor-in-Chief

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

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A Weekly Political News Magazine

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“ Is China’s Covid-19 Diplomacy Working in Southeast Asia ? “

Issue 1842- March- 05/03/2021

32 US Syria Strike Draws Partisan

Response

48 Egyptian Draft Law Sparks

Anger

46 Saudi Arabia Explores its

Dromedary Heritage Potential

34 Myanmar’s Ethnic Groups Jointly

Reject Military Rule

Laughter Yoga in the Frontline 56 Against Coronavirus in Egypt 5

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42 Ban All Big Mergers


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Belarus Politics Demo Spring Women in red clothing dance holding up red tulips as they welcome the meteorological spring during a protest against the Belarus presidential election results near the village of Maloje Zapruddzie, some 95 kilometers northwest of Minsk on March 1, 2021 )AFP Photos(

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British PM Johnson visits a school in Stoke- On-Trent ahead of reopening Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L) bumps elbows with with Head Girl Hirah Hussain (R) during his visit to St Mary’s C.E. Primary School in Stoke-on-Trent, central England on March 1, 2021, to see how their preparations are going ahead of students returning on March 8, after England’s third lockdown. - Schools are due to reopen to pupils from March 8 as the government gradually relaxes stay-at-home restrictions that have forced lessons to move online )AFP Photos(

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A WEEK IN THE MIDDLE EAST LEBANON Protesters blocked roads with burning tyres and dumpsters across Lebanon this week after the currency tumbled to a new low in a financial meltdown that has fueled poverty. “We can’t bear it anymore...The dollar is going up and they don’t care about us. They’re still dividing up their gains,” Rabih Khaled, who has been unemployed for months, said at one of the protests. Crushed under a mountain of debt, Lebanon is grappling with a financial crisis that has wiped out jobs, raised warnings of growing hunger and locked people out of their bank deposits.

IRAQ Pope Francis said this week he is going to Iraq, where his predecessor John Paul was not allowed to go in 2000, because “the people cannot be let down for a second time.” Speaking at the end of his general audience, Francis, who is due to start the risky trip in Baghdad on Friday, asked for prayers so that the visit “can take place in the best possible way and bring about the desired fruits”. He made no mention of the deteriorating security situation in Iraq, where earlier on Wednesday at least 10 rockets landed on an air base that hosts United States, coalition and Iraqi forces. Pope John Paul had to cancel a planned trip in 2000 after a breakdown in talks with the government of then leader Saddam Hussein.

EGYPT

YEMEN

Turkey and Egypt could negotiate a maritime demarcation agreement in the eastern Mediterranean if their ties, which have been strained, allow for such a move, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said this week. Last month, Egypt announced the start of a bid round for oil and natural gas exploration and exploitation in 24 blocks including some in the Mediterranean. Speaking at a news conference with his Georgian counterpart in Ankara, Cavusoglu said Egypt’s exploration bids had respected Turkey’s continental shelf and that Ankara viewed this positively. “As the two countries with the longest coastlines in the eastern Mediterranean, if our ties and the conditions allow it, we can also negotiate a maritime demarcation deal with Egypt and sign it amongst ourselves,” Cavusoglu said. Turkey signed a similar agreement with Libya’s Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) in 2019, prompting an angry response from Greece, which rejected the accord as illegal.

The United States this week imposed sanctions on two military leaders of the Houthi movement in Yemen, accusing them of procuring weapons from Iran and organizing attacks, in the Biden administration's first punitive action against the group, Reuters reported. The sanctions contrast with the State Department's decision last month to revoke terrorist designations on the group imposed by President Donald Trump's administration on its last full day in office, over concern that they would exacerbate Yemen's humanitarian crisis. But President Joe Biden's administration has signaled limits to U.S. tolerance of the Iran-backed Houthi movement, warning that Washington will keep up pressure on the group's leadership.

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SAUDI ARABIA Saudi Arabia’s health ministry has ruled that only people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 will be allowed to attend the haj this year, Saudi newspaper Okaz reported this week. “The COVID-19 vaccine is mandatory for those willing to come to the haj and will be one of the main conditions (for receiving a permit to come),” the report said, citing a circular signed by the health minister. In 2020, the kingdom dramatically reduced the number of pilgrims to around 1,000 to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, after barring Muslims abroad from the rite for the first time in modern times.

SYRIA Lawyers representing survivors of a chemical weapons attack in 2013 in Syria have filed a criminal complaint against Syrian officials whom they blame for the deaths of hundreds of civilians in a rebel-held area, Reuters reported. France is home to thousands of Syrian refugees, and its investigating judges have a mandate to determine whether crimes against humanity were committed anywhere in the world. The case, which about a dozen people have joined, follows a similar one opened in Germany last year. It offers a rare legal avenue for action against the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Attempts by Western powers to set up an international tribunal for Syria have been blocked by Russia and China at the U.N. Security Council. “This is important so that the victims have the possibility to see those responsible being brought to justice and held accountable,” Mazen Darwish, who heads the Paris-based Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), told Reuters.

GULF Gulf counties have reiterated support for and solidarity with Saudi Arabia in its position regarding the report by the US Congress on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The UAE, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain expressed support for the Kingdom after the US congress released its report. The UAE’s foreign ministry “expressed its confidence in and support for the Saudi judiciary rulings, which affirm the kingdom’s commitment to implementing the law in a transparent and impartial manner, and holding all those involved in this case accountable,” according to the UAE’s state news agency WAM said.

JORDAN Jordan’s interior and justice ministers were sacked this week for breaching health regulations to stem the spread of coronavirus, with their replacements named by royal decree, AP reported. The pair were asked to step down by Prime Minister Bisher al-Khasawneh, a move immediately endorsed by King Abdullah II, according to a statement from the royal palace. They are accused, according to a government source, of “having violated the emergency law” put in place to curb Covid-19.

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RUSSIA

A WEEK ACROSS THE WORLD

The Biden administration sanctioned seven mid-level and se Russian officials this week, along with more than a dozen government entities, over a nearly fatal nerve-agent attack o opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his subsequent jailing. The measures, emphasizing the use of the Russian nerve age a banned chemical weapon, marked the Biden administration first sanctions against associates of President Vladimir Putin. Russian leader was a favorite of former President Donald Tr even during covert Russian hacking and social media campai aimed at destabilizing the U.S. The government officials included at least four whom Naval supporters had directly asked the West to penalize, saying th dissidents and journalists. However, the U.S. list did not inclu bankers, oligarchs whom Navalny has long said the West wo

FRANCE Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy said this week he was ready to go all the way to the European Court of Human Rights to prove his innocence, his first public reaction after being found guilty of corruption and sentenced to prison, Reuters reported. The court found that Sarkozy, 66, had tried to bribe a judge and peddle his influence after leaving office in exchange for inside information about an investigation into his 2007 campaign finances. Sarkozy is appealing the ruling. Sarkozy on Tuesday protested his innocence. He said he was the victim of a deep injustice, that the ruling was riddled with inconsistencies and that the political impartiality of some investigating judges was open to question.

U.S. The United States will have enough COVID-19 vaccine for every American adult by the end of May, President Joe Biden said this week after Merck & Co agreed to make rival Johnson & Johnson’s inoculation, Reuters reported. The partnership between drug makers, as well as other steps the government is taking to assist J&J, will allow the company to accelerate delivery of 100 million vaccine doses by around a month, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). “One of the things that I learned when I came into office was that Johnson & Johnson was behind in manufacturing and production,” Biden said. “It simply wasn’t coming fast enough. So my team has been hard at work to accelerate that effort.”

AFGHANISTAN The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for an attack that killed three female media workers in eastern Afghanistan, according to a Reuters report. The militant group, which has a presence in Afghanistan, said its fighters had targeted the three female employees of a television station in the eastern city of Jalalabad on Tuesday evening, according to the SITE Intelligence group. The women, who worked for local broadcaster Enikas TV, were aged between 18 and 20 and were shot on their way home from work, according to Afghan officials. Their burials took place on Wednesday after prayer ceremonies, according to a provincial council member. A fourth women wounded in the attack was admitted to hospital in a critical condition, hospitals officials. Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani condemned the attack, which local police initially blamed on the insurgent Taliban, who denied any involvement.

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AFRICA

The World Bank is preparing em access COVID-19 vaccines, the secure doses and start immunis Only a handful of African gover whereas some countries in wea millions of doses. Many rely on the World Health delivered its first doses last wee The World Bank said financing p the Democratic Republic of Co and Senegal, without disclosing


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lny’s hey were most involved in targeting him and other ude any of Russia’s most powerful businesspeople and ould have to sanction to get the attention of Putin.

mergency financing to help about 30 African countries e global lender told Reuters, as the continent scrambles to sing vulnerable groups. rnments have launched mass vaccination campaigns, althier parts of the world have already administered

h Organization’s vaccine-sharing scheme COVAX, which ek with a shipment to Ghana. projects were being prepared in African countries including ongo, Ethiopia, Niger, Mozambique, Tunisia, eSwatini, Rwanda the amount of support under discussion.

ETHIOPIA Four Ethiopians working with foreign journalists in the northern Tigray region have been released without charges, an official and media outlets said this week. A reporter for the BBC's Tigrinya language service, Girmay Gebru, two translators with Agence France-Presse and the Financial Times, and a journalist working with the New York Times were detained in recent days, their outlets said. "All journalists and translators have been released without charges," Abebe Gebrehiwot Yihdego, deputy head of Tigray's interim administration, told Reuters. The BBC confirmed Girmay’s release in a tweet, while AFP and the New York Times also confirmed in emails to Reuters that those working with them had been freed.

SOUTH AFRICA Research by South African scientists suggests that antibodies triggered by exposure to the country's dominant coronavirus variant can prevent infection by other variants, the scientists said on Wednesday. The findings in laboratory studies offer hope that COVID-19 vaccines based on the 501Y.V2 variant first identified late last year could protect against multiple variants circulating in different parts of the world. The more contagious variant drove a second wave of infections in South Africa that peaked in January and is believed to have spread to many other countries in Africa and other continents.

MYANMAR Myanmar security forces opened fire on protests against military rule this week, killing at least 18 people, a human rights group said, a day after neighbouring countries called for restraint and offered to help Myanmar resolve the crisis. The security forces resorted to live fire with little warning in several towns and cities, witnesses said, as the junta appeared more determined than ever to stamp out protests against the Feb. 1 coup that ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. “It’s horrific, it’s a massacre. No words can describe the situation and our feelings,” youth activist Thinzar Shunlei Yi told Reuters via a messaging app.

GERMANY Chancellor Angela Merkel faced growing pressure to set out a clear roadmap to reopening German society from months of pandemic lockdown, with Finance Minister Olaf Scholz joining the chorus of voices saying existing plans did not go far enough. Draft plans, seen by Reuters, show ministers are planning to ease some restrictions beginning next week, a cautious approach that is likely to disappoint parents of school-age children and many business groups in Europe’s largest economy.

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Jawad Nasrallah: An Online Assassin Weak Succession Promise For Hezbollah’s Political Influencer? Hanin Ghaddar The name Jawad Nasrallah resurfaced in international media in February 2021, after the assassination of Hezbollah critic Lokman Slim in Lebanon. Minutes after Slim’s

assassination was conformed, Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah’s son – Jawad Nasrallah – tweeted in Arabic “The loss of some is in fact an unexpected gain and kindness to others,” adding the hashtag #noremorse. Although he deleted his tweet later

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and justified it as a personal tweet that is not relevant to Slim’s killing, the message had already been delivered. Nasrallah wanted to let everyone know that Hezbollah was involved and that they do not care. The message was clear: we will kill anyone who works against us. Nasrallah took to twitter – his favorite platform, which has banned him multiple times. But he keeps coming back. As an online celebrity, the son of Hezbollah’s aspires to lead via the internet. In fact, most of his activities – propaganda and terrorism – have been conducted online. Eventually, Jawad Nasrallah became a leader in what is known as Hezbollah’s military media, but his main responsibility stayed focused on online recruiting and propaganda.

Jawad Nasrallah (C), son of Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah movement›s leader Hassan Nasrallah, attends a gathering to commemorate the 1997 killing of his brother Hadi during clashes with Israeli forces, in the Iranian holy city of Qom, about 130 kilometres south of the capital Tehran on September 30, 2019. (Getty)

THE TROUBLESOME SON The 39 years old father of four is the second eldest son of Hassan Nasrallah, after his eldest brother Hadi was killed in 1997, allegedly during a military confrontation with Israeli armed forces in south Lebanon. In 2108, he was designated by the US State department, which described him as “the rising star of Hezbollah,” and he was sanctioned because he recruited people to carry out terrorist attacks against Israel and tried in 2016 to activate a suicide bombing and shooting cell based in the West Bank. In the same State Department announcement, Al-Mujahidin Brigades (AMB) was also designated as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs) under Section 1(b) of Executive Order 13224. AMB is a “military organization that has operated in the Palestinian Territories since 2005 and whose members have plotted a number of attacks against Israeli targets. AMB has ties to Hezbollah, and Hezbollah has provided funding and military training to AMB members,” the statement added. Further research into Jawad Nasrallah’s role shows that he was allocated the task of internet recruitment, after much success in

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Family members of trusted figures also have better access to the leadership in Tehran and Qum, and receive better training and responsibilities. They also have access to more resources – financial and military – which they can use for financial benefits and political clout. creating an internet and social media persona, mainly after years of posting on Facebook and Twitter about Hezbollah’s fighters who were killed in military operations. His social media know-hows have probably made him both credible and qualified to lead the online recruitment – or part of it – for Hezbollah. According to Israeli intelligence, Jawad Nasrallah worked with an agent under the nickname “Fadi,” who was an operative in Hezbollah’s Unit 133, responsible for operations in Israel and the West Bank. In addition to his online recruiting job, Jawad Nasrallah enjoys his poetry. According to AP news, he had already published a collection of poems entitled Resistance Letters in which he glorifies those who have died fighting Israel.

AN OPERATOR; NOT A LEADER It seems that Jawad Nasrallah’s dreams to inherit his father’s role – as the political scene in Lebanon expects – is long shot from being fulfilled. Unlike his father and other Hezbollah leaders, he is too brazen in his posts and commentaries, picks fights and threatens people directly. He does not possess the composure and the poise of a natural leader, and his sometimes childish behavior


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on social media gets him and Hezbollah under serious criticism. However, although his leadership attributes are weak, Jawad Nasrallah is a real operator, who understand logistics and social media messaging and communication strategies. A deeper look into the details of his recruitment techniques can unveil his capabilities. When the Israeli security and intelligence apparatus revealed the details of Jawad’s involvement in the terrorist attack, it was clear that he was much more than an internet personality – or for that matter, a resistance celebrity. Nasrallah had spent a considerable amount of his time looking for potential terrorists, mainly in the West Bank, using his background and presence on social media. Apparently, his Facebook and Twitter accounts are just a façade for his real work: terrorism recruitment. According to Shin Bet, the Israeli internal security service, Jawad was involved in recruiting the leader of the Tulkarem cell, Muhammad Zaghloul. He had apparently trained Zaghloul to recruit others for two goals: gathering intelligence and carrying out attacks. Zaghloul formed a cell of five-man cell, who asked Hezbollah – through Jawad Nasrallah – for 30,000$, of which they have received 5000$, and used the money to buy

Unlike his father and other Hezbollah leaders, he is too brazen in his posts and commentaries, picks fights and threatens people directly.

a sub-machine gun and a full magazine. The cell was eventually arrested by Shin Bet right before the operation was supposed to take place. The first contact between Jawad Nasrallah and Zaghloul was through Facebook, when the latter asked him to help him establish contact with the party of god. It took a while – probably to vet Zaghloul and confirm his credibility, Jawad reached out to him via “Fadi,” who provided Zaghloul with codes to make sure his conversations with Nasrallah remain safe and encrypted.

FUTURE PROSPECTS Unlike other political dynasties in Lebanon and the rest of the region, Hezbollah follows the Iranian code of succession. Succession in Hezbollah’s terms is not within the family, and we haven’t seen any political inheritance within Hezbollah’s circles. When Hezbollah’s former Secretary General Abbas Al-Moussawi was killed, he was not succeeded by a son or brother – as is the case with many political families in Lebanon and the region. He was succeeded by Hassan Nasrallah, who was chosen directly by his Iranian supervisors. Imad Mughnieh was also not succeeded by his son. However, the sons of these figures are always more trusted by the Iranian regime, which take into consideration the value of family connections for many Lebanese. Family members of trusted figures also have better access to the leadership in Tehran and Qum, and receive better training and responsibilities. They also have access to more resources – financial and military – which they can use for financial benefits and political clout. Accordingly, it is highly unlikely that Jawad

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Hassan Nasrallah, Secretary General of Hezbollah. (Getty)

Nasrallah will inherit his father’s position at the helm of Hezbollah. In addition to the succession mechanism that doesn’t work in his favor, he also does not convey a leadership personality. He sounds childish on social media – like a political influencer rather than a political leader. That being said, and despite his many intentional or unintentional controversies, he is someone who will stick around. He is the son of Hassan Nasrallah, and that is in itself is an added-value attribute that both Hezbollah and the Iranian regime will try to exploit in three ways: to reach out to Hezbollah’s support base on social media, strengthen their propaganda machine through his online profile, and continue employing him for their online recruiting operations,

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Although his leadership attributes are weak, Jawad Nasrallah is a real operator, who understand logistics and social media messaging and communication strategies. probably under the supervision of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. 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.


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Potential successors of Hezbollah’s Leader

Three Names in Nasrallah’s Close Circle Mahdi Karayem Political dynasties have been a distinctive feature of

Lebanon’s politics, as the eldest son succeeds his father in leading a movement or a party. In some Lebanese parties, succession of leadership extends across many generations in a given family. However, the succession of Hezbollah’s leadership is totally different. Taking even a quick look at the

history of its leadership makes it clear that choosing the head of the party is not based on the Lebanese tradition. This was evident when Subhi al-Tufayli, the former Secretary General of Hezbollah, was replaced by Abbas al-Musawi. Additionally, when Musawi was killed, his son did not inherit his role but it was Nasrallah who was appointed to the helm of the organization. Nevertheless, this procedure is not fixed and final. Although a certain mechanism involves

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the party’s political council which has to select the secretary general, the final decision is in the hands of the Iranian leadership. The following are the main figures who are likely candidates to succeed Nasrallah:

HASHEM SAFI AL-DIN

Mohammad Jalal Firouznia, Irans ambassador to Lebanon, center, sits with Sayyed Hashem Safieddine, a senior Hezbollah official, right, as Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah, delivers a televised speech, in Beirut, Lebanon, on Sunday, Jan. 2020 ,5. (Getty)

He was born in Tyre, Southern Lebanon, in 1964. He is Nasrallah’s cousin and apparently looks like him. He is one of the main people suggested for the succession of leadership. Safi Al-Din heads Hezbollah’s Executive Council, which is similar to a country’s cabinet. In his position, he has full authority over the party’s political, social and economic affairs, which keeps him in contact with second and third-rank leaders. In addition, he enjoys strong ties with the organization’s military wing. In May 2017 ,9, Washington listed Safi Al-Dinas a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, due to “his responsibility for Hezbollah’s operations across the Middle East, and his advisory role in terrorist attacks and support of Assad regime.” In addition, Saudi Arabia added him to its terrorism blacklist. Safi Al-Din maintains a strong relationship with the Iranian regime. It was reported that he moved in 1994 from Iran’s Qum to Beirut to hold a post in Hezbollah following an Iranian order. Moreover, last June, Iranian media reported that his son Reda married Zeinab Soleimani, the daughter of the late Iranian military commander of the IRGC-affiliated Quds Forces Qasem Soleimani, who was killed in Iraq last year.

Nevertheless, this procedure is not fixed and final. Although a certain mechanism involves the party’s political council which has to select the secretary general, the final decision is in the hands of the Iranian leadership. Hamiyah is the head of Hezbollah’s External Security Organization (ESO), which coordinates and organizes the operations of numerous cells all over the world. His group is responsible for the planning and execution of terrorist attacks outside of Lebanon, especially those targeting Israelis and Americans. His name is linked to many attacks, and he was charged due to his involvement in hijacking the TWA flight in June 1985. His chances of succeeding Nasrallah are high because he holds a senior position in the military wing. Reports indicate that he is the assistant head of the military council which is headed by Nasrallah.

FUAD SHUKR

Born in 1962 in Beqaa Governorate, Fuad Shukr has been in Hezbollah since its establishment in 1980s and rose through its ranks until he became Nasrallah’s senior military advisor. TALAL HAMIYAH According to reports, Shukr is a member of the Jihad Council, which is Hezbollah’s highest military body. Born on November 1952 ,27 in Taraya in Beqaa He also led the group’s forces in Syria, succeeding Governorate, Talal Hamiyah is one of the very few Mustafa Badreddine who was killed in 2016. people who have direct contact with Nasrallah. He was designated in the US list of sanctions and the Hamiyah, aka “Ismat Mezarani,” belongs to Saudi list of terrorists due to his role in “spreading Hezbollah’s military wing, which is why he keeps a low chaos and carrying out terrorist attacks.” In October profile and operates under various nicknames. Being a 2017, the US State Department posted a reward of 5 first-generation member, Hamiyah joined Hezbollah in million dollars for any information that would help mid1980-s and was assigned to the development of the indict or arrest Fuad Shukr. party’s members in Bourj el-Barajneh, the Southern Although his name is frequently mentioned as a likely Suburbs of Beirut. He was close to Imad Mughniyeh, successor of Nasrallah, Shukr has a slim chance Hezbollah’s first military commander, who was killed compared to Hamiyah who holds a superior military in a car bomb in Damascus in 2008. position. It is worthwhile to observe that both men According to the US State Department website were potential candidates to succeed Imad Mughniyeh “Rewards for Justice” (which offers rewards to any as the deputy head of the military council, but Hamiyah informant about wanted terrorist designated figures), won the position.

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Hezbollah’s Poetic Weapon The Leader’s Son and His E-Flies Across Social Media By Hala Nasrallah In my secondary school, few years after the July 2006 war, girls were charmed by Jawad Nasrallah when most of them were participating in “Education mobilization”. “Education mobilization” is the primary means of ideological indoctri-nation of Shiite teenagers in Lebanese schools. Girls used to talk about Jawad Nasrallah as a poet, and pass papers of his latest poems. I asked my friend who was involved in the mobilization process, what is Jawad’s job? She answered, “He works as a poet.” Indeed, Jawad went from being a shy person who wrote a few lines of poetry, to becoming an established poet in Iran’s sphere. When Julia Boutros, the Lebanese singer,

sang his poem “Moqawem”, it seemed that she had the honor of singing his words. Probably, this poetic aspect of Jawad’s personality is the hidden part of the son of Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, which was not revealed before by reporters and analysts.

HIS FATHER’S POET Jawad, who is savvy about the techniques and power of social media, has played a significant role with his poems in creating a cult personali-ty of his father Hassan Nasrallah among Hezbollah’s supporters. The aura is the combined outcome worked out by both the father and son: Hassan Nasrallah’s speeches and Jawad’s

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lines about his father. His poems have been frequently turned into folklore. For example, his po-em “Ya Abi” (My father) went viral in Hezbollah’s virtual community, and resurfaces repeatedly whenever the party’s “electronic flies” (the name of troll-like accounts in the Middle East) take to Facebook and Twitter to protect the image of Nasrallah, the father.

JAWAD NASRALLAH TWEETING...

A picture taken on November ,3 2014 shows Jawad Nasrallah, the sec-ond eldest son of Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah adjusting his camera during a speech by his father, in the southern suburbs of Beirut. (Getty Images)

As known to Lebanese and world media, Jawad is an avid user of his Twitter account which has about 80,000 followers. Possessing such a double-edged weapon, Jawad never misses the op-portunity to use his words to defame his opponents, whether they are individuals or groups. Through his Twitter account and fully aware of the power and influence of words on people’s minds, he invokes his poetic capabilities. On social media, Jawad leads the narrative that targets his opponents, aided by fake and authentic accounts (electronic flies), to mobilize and troll against Hezbollah’s enemies whenever possible. In addressing the poet’s muscle-flexing attitude, one can notice the media support he receives from the journalist Husein Mortada, who is well-known for his provocative words, which amounts to taking pride in the excessive military violence against the labeled enemies of Hezbol-lah. Poetry has long played a role in Hezbollah’s art scene. The organization produces each year hundreds of songs and musical productions of high quality. Serving as a public motivational tool, poetry helps shape the political, social, and religious identities of communities. It is also present in the Day of Ashura’s celebrations, which are specially organized by Hezbol-lah. In this event the group adopts a specific discourse, with a rhetoric of grand style. Despite being a radical military and security group which uses religion and sectarianism to carry out its operations in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, Hezbollah understands the power of poetry and has admiration for po-etry and verses so that it gives the literary form an extraordinary role - the party’s poets even set events to create resistance poetry. In his screen appearances, Hassan Nasrallah never forget to mention the poet Hassan Abbas, whom he describes as “the son of Fatima”. We must also remember Abbas’s fist salute whenever Nasrallah’s name is mentioned. Jawad, as a poet, performs a very sensitive role in the radical religious organization, as he creates content for a terrorist-designated military group in the U.S. and some European countries. For the Hezbollah, words are as potent in their struggle as bullets in a military fight. Speech is based on manipulation, distortion and diversion. After the as-sassination of Lokman Slim, Hezbollah’s Lebanese critic, Jawad tweeted “The loss

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Through his Twitter account and fully aware of the power and influence of words on people’s minds, he invokes his poetic capabilities. On social media, Jawad leads the narrative that targets his opponents, aided by fake and authentic accounts (electronic flies), to mobilize and troll against Hezbollah’s enemies whenever possible. of some is, in fact, an unexpected gain and kindness to oth-ers,” adding the hashtag #no-remorse.” Then he dismissed it as a point-less remark, in an attempt to put it in a poetic context and make it un-connected to the murder of Slim.

A SECURITY POET Understandably, any street protest would only be fought back by a young group of people who would be authorized to maintain stability. Jawad is known to have a wide circle of young admirers and is regarded as a people’s person; he maintains contact with his real and virtual friends, most of whom are younger or of his age. Notwithstanding his image as a poet and a scholarly master of words, Jawad has recently begun to live under a military and security umbrel-la. Coinciding with reports from the group’s close circles that the lead-er’s second eldest son, who is less than 40 years old, would be assigned new responsibilities, these measures solidify the rumour, given the groups recent security failures. By the end of last year, local and international media disclosed that Ja-wad Nasrallah was the target of a failed assassination attempt while he was in Jadriyah in Iraq when he was assigned personally by his father to secretly meet Qasem Soleimani. The meeting was held shortly after the breakout of October 17 protests, in which Hezbollah’s supporters clashed with the protesters. At that time, analysts said that Soleimani was meeting with leading figures in Iraq and Lebanon to extinguish the uprising which took to the streets that Iran has historically been influencing.


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US Syria Strike Draws Partisan Response

Deterrent or War Signal? by Joseph Braude

mixed reaction in Congress, as both Democrats and Republicans split ranks to alternately support and On February 25, President Biden authorized an condemn the move, highlighting the trans-partisan airstrike targeting Iranian-linked militias in eastern nature of crucial foreign policy debates. Syria. His decision came in response to the recent spate of at least three rocket attacks which have THE STRIKE AND ITS RATIONALE targeted U.S. equities in Iraq, one of which killed a non-U.S. contractor and wounded nine additional Two days after the strike, Biden wrote a letter to people, including five Americans. The move drew a House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President pro

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tempore of the Senate Patrick Leahy, highlighting the international legitimacy of the move and claiming that “the United States took this action pursuant to the United States’ inherent right of self-defense as reflected in Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.” For its part, the Pentagon’s after-action statement took special care to note that the strike was carried out «in response to recent attacks against American and Coalition personnel in Iraq,» and was intended to send “an unambiguous message: President Biden will act to protect American and Coalition personnel.” At the same time, the statement went on to stress that “we have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to de-escalate the overall situation in both eastern Syria and Iraq.»

U.S. President Joe Biden. (Getty)

The move drew a mixed reaction in Congress, as both Democrats and Republicans split ranks to alternately support and condemn the move, highlighting the trans-partisan nature of crucial foreign policy debates.

THE LEFT REACTS

REPUBLICANS OFFER RARE PRAISE FOR WHITE HOUSE

Despite the ostensible pull of party loyalty, and the traditional impulse to give a new President a “honeymoon” period, several Democrats of the party’s progressive wing were sharply critical of the Biden administration. Representative Ilhan Omar expressed last Friday her abiding concerns about the White House’s «legal rationale» for launching airstrikes in Syria without first seeking congressional approval. As she put it, «We in Congress have congressional oversight in engaging in war and we haven’t been briefed yet and we have not authorized war in Syria.” The most powerful progressive voice in Congress, Senator Sanders, largely echoed these concerns: “I am very concerned by last night’s strike by U.S. forces in Syria. The president has the responsibility to keep Americans safe, but for too long administrations of both parties have interpreted their authorities in an extremely expansive way to continue war. This must end.” Progressive Rep. Barbara Lee, famed for being the only lawmaker who voted against the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force in the days following 11/9, said that the Syria strike highlights the need to remove old war powers from the books and return to nuclear talks with Iran. «The strike in Syria underscores the urgent need to get back to the table with Iran and revive the JCPOA... It also underscores the urgent need to repeal the blank check for endless wars — the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs — which are now almost 20 years old.»

House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Representative Michael McCaul lauded the administration’s move: «I called for the administration to respond to the recent attacks on U.S. and coalition targets, and I commend them for doing just that. Responses like this are a necessary deterrent and remind #Iran, its proxies, and our adversaries around the world that attacks on U.S. interests will not be tolerated. I thank @POTUS and our service members for protecting Americans overseas.” The Senate GOP evinced a similar dynamic. Senator Marco Rubio observed that “Iranian backed militias have launched three attacks against Americans in the last two weeks. The strikes ordered by [President Biden] against these militias tonight were targeted, proportional and necessary.” Senator Graham, who in recent years has assumed the role of intermediary between various elements of the GOP, similarly endorsed the strikes, saying that he “appreciate[s] Biden Administration striking Iranian-backed militia groups in Syria who’ve been pushing attacks against American forces in Iraq and other locations. It is imperative that our enemies know that attacking Americans comes at a cost.” These opinions were not unanimous, however. In a useful reminder that foreign policy can cut across party lines, first term conservative stalwart Congresswoman Nancy Mace tweeted, “I strongly oppose @POTUS meddling in Syria. I can think of better ways to ensure no one can strike our US forces in Iraq. Stop the endless wars.”

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Gulf Reconciliation Will Bring Positive Regional Impact No Development in Arab Countries Without Diplomatic Dialogue By Hatem Khedr In a bid to enhance Arab unity and promote reconciliation, the State of Kuwait last week hosted meetings of official delegations between Qatar and Egypt, and Qatar and the UAE. The meetings are the result of the Al-Ula Declaration that

was announced and signed at the 41st GCC Summit on January 5 this year. The Declaration paved the way for the GCC and Egypt to commence normalization of relations and resumption of diplomatic ties with Qatar. The Summit, also known as the “Summit of Sul-

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tan Qaboos and Sheikh Sabah” represented the hopes and aspirations of the region’s peoples for restoration of cooperation and the bonds of Arab brotherhood amongst all the member states. In addition, efforts are also underway to promote stronger ties and Arab unity between the GCC States and Egypt on the one hand and strengthen Egyptian-Qatari ties on the other. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan described the Al-Ula Declaration as “A solution to all areas of differences and a restoration of all diplomatic ties” adding that “It will be a strong and important foundation to the future of the region and its stability”.

MECHSNISMS FOR UNIFIED ACTION The Qatari and Emirati delegations discussed mechanisms and measures to implement the declaration and translate its provisions into action. They stressed the importance of maintaining Gulf unity and developing a joint course of action.

Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad alThani (L) is welcomed by Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman (R) ahead of the 41st Summit of Gulf Cooperation Council in AlUla, Saudi Arabia on January 2021 ,05. (Getty)

In the same context, Kuwait also hosted meetings of the Qatari and Egyptian delegations for the first time since the Al-Ula summit. They sought to restore and promote bilateral ties in face of threats in the region. The two delegations lauded measures taken by each other as a confidenceboosting measure after signing the Declaration.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan described the Al-Ula Declaration as “A solution to all areas of differences and a restoration of all diplomatic ties” adding that “It will be a strong and important foundation to the future of the region and its stability”. Ahead of the GGC Summit, Kuwait’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Sabah declared the re-opening of airspace and land and sea border between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

ON THE RIGHT TRACK Egypt’s former Ambassador to Qatar, Mohamed Morsi stressed the importance of taking all steps in the path of reconciliation and settling differences. “Resolving differences and moving forward towards reconciliation are good steps. This means that things are on the right track,” Ambassador Morsi, also Egypt’s former assistant foreign minister, told Majalla.

On January 12, Egypt decided to re-open its airspace to receive Qatari air flights after nearly a The paramount aim of this move is to restore the three and a half-year suspension. unity, solidarity and coordination between the Arab countries to overcome huge challenges facOn January 20, an Egyptian Foreign Ministry ing the countries in the present, he stressed. statement said that Egypt and Qatar have signed two memoranda of understanding to restore dip- “Coordination between Egypt, Saudi Arabia and lomatic relations between the countries. the UAE is the safety valve and vital for the joint On January 5, the Qatari Diar Real Estate Com- Arab action now,’ he noted. pany announced the opening of the St. Regis Ho- The ambassador added that solving the pending tel in Cairo that it wholly owns. The move came differences is one of the requirements of this coa day before the Al-Ula Declaration. operation. On the same day Saudi Arabia declared the reopening of land borders with Qatar after a three and a half-year spat.

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Meanwhile the meetings have been welcomed with optimism by ambassadors and professors of Arab political affairs. They feel that the meetings


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hold the potential to bring the countries in question closer in the near future. “We thank our Arab brothers who have adhered to the initiative of His Highness the late Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah on the reconciliation. Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim was enthusiastic for the settlement,” Dr. Maryam Al-Kandari, Professor of Political Sciences at Kuwait University, told Majalla. “No real development can be achieved in the Arab countries without diplomatic dialogue and peace,” she added. “Egypt also supported the reconciliation for the sake of maintaining the unity of the Arab countries. Egypt has considerable influence in the region, and a leading position.” Dr. Kandhari added that the potential of Arab nations had been vitiated in wars. “We as Arab brothers look forward to achieving peace,” she said. Egypt’s signature on the Al-Ula Statement underscored its influence in Arab affairs and the strengthening of diplomatic ties between Egypt and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states.

POSITIVE ECONOMIC IMPACT The reconciliation will have positive impacts not only on the political field but also on the economic one. It will promote economic cooperation

“Political instability negatively affects the economy, and local and foreign investors. The reconciliation will have a positive impact on the economic field, capital inflows, trade and foreign investments in the region”

between the countries if things will go within a legal and transparent framework. “When the crisis happened, I expected that it would lead to a negative impact on the regional economy,” Dr. Amani Bouresli, Professor of Finance at Kuwait University and Former Minister of Industry and Commerce, told Majalla, “Political instability negatively affects the economy, and local and foreign investors. The reconciliation will have a positive impact on the economic field, capital inflows, trade and foreign investments in the region,” she elaborated. Kuwait will host further meetings in coming period with the aim of signing deals by the parties organizing their relations, she noted, expressing her optimism about the reconciliation and the promotion of economy between the countries.

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Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani (L2-), Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman (4th L), Deputy Prime Minister of Oman Fahd bin Mahmoud al Said (L3-), Salman, Crown Prince of Bahrain (R3-), Vice President of the United Arab Emirates Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (R2-) and Emir of Kuwait Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah (L) pose for a photo during the 41st Summit of Gulf Cooperation Council in AlUla, Saudi Arabia on January 2021 ,05. (Getty)


She, however, asserted that all future economic deals must be nurtured within a strong legal framework that would be transparent and organized in order to reap the benefits of the reconciliation. Investors want a guarantee that all differences were resolved and the upcoming meetings should put into consideration the interests of investors and traders all over the world, she pointed out. The economic agreements to be signed by the parties should guarantee for investors that their investment will be safe and not affected by any possible disagreements, the professor made clear, ruling out differences in the future. Voicing optimism, Bouresli stressed that all differences between the four countries and Qatar will be resolved and are not going to recur even

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The paramount aim of this move is to restore the unity, solidarity and coordination between the Arab countries to overcome huge challenges facing the countries in the present. if they take time to completely unknot. Against the backdrop of a challenging period, statesmen and experts alike have applauded Kuwait’s efforts to follow up on the Al-Ula Declaration and implement its provisions. The need for Arabs to stand united is urgent in the face of these testing times.


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Egypt ’ s Gaza Gas Field Development A Win-win Palestine Self-sufficiency Promise and Egypt Energy Hub Hope Cairo : Amr Emam Egypt has taken an additional step on the road to becoming a central player in the energy market in the Eastern Mediterranean region by hammering out a deal with the Palestinian Authority (PA) to develop a gas field off the Gaza Strip. The deal, signed on 21 February, is reviving hopes for putting production from the Gaza Marine gas field online years after these

hopes were dashed, sometimes because of hindrances put in the way by Israel and other times because of regional instability. The Gaza Marine field was discovered in 2000. It is located around 36 kilometers west of the coast of Gaza and is estimated to contain 1.4 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves, enough to satisfy the needs of the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank for 15 years at current consumption levels.

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The Gaza Marine field was discovered in 2000. It is located around 36 kilometers west of the coast of Gaza and is estimated to contain 1.4 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves, enough to satisfy the needs of the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank for 15 years at current consumption levels. This caused delay in the development of the field, he said. However, by stepping in, Egypt is ending this deadlock and giving the Palestinians hope that they can be self-sufficient in energy in the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, analysts believe that energy selfsufficiency will give the Palestinians an edge against Israel. «This sufficiency will come with political effects, namely by empowering the Palestinians politically,» Palestinian political analyst Osama Shaath told Majalla. «It will partially stop pressures on the Palestinians by the different parties which always attach aid to concessions.»

A picture shows Gaza Strip›s lone power plant on February 2021 ,24 south of Gaza City. (Getty)

Energy-thirsty Gaza is almost totally dependent on energy supplies from Israel. Even with these supplies, electricity cuts are the norm throughout the day in Gaza, which is inhabited by 1.8 million people.

POLITICAL EDGE A senior Palestinian official said the PA would cooperate with Egypt to put production from the Gaza Marine field online as soon as possible. Mohamed Mustafa, an advisor of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, said the Palestinians› struggle for developing the field since its discovery in 2000 was hampered by Israel.

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The state-run Israel Electric Corporation provides the Gaza Strip with 120 megawatts of electrical power every day. The same Corporation provides the West Bank with 750 megawatts of electrical power every day, whereas Jordan provides it with 35 megawatts. Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad


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Shtayyeh said on 22 February that the development of the Gaza Marine field would help the Palestinians stop depending on energy supplies from Israel. «This is an important issue for the Palestinian government,» Shtayyeh said.

ECONOMIC RELIEF The Palestinians say production from the Gaza Marine field would be used in satisfying the needs of Gaza and the West Bank. They add that surpluses from the field would be sold in the international market. This is opening the door for possible economic relief in Gaza which has been suffering economically since 2007 when Israel started an all-out blockade on it. «Production from the field will improve living conditions in Gaza which suffers deep economic problems because of the Israeli blockade and intra-Palestinian rifts,» Shaath said. More than two thirds of Gaza›s population live on aid. In 2019, the poverty and unemployment rates in the coastal enclave were nearly %75, according to the Ministry of Social Development in the Palestinian territory.

The Palestinians say production from the Gaza Marine field would be used in satisfying the needs of Gaza and the West Bank. They add that surpluses from the field would be sold in the international market.

ENERGY HUB Egypt signed the agreement for developing the Gaza Marine gas field only hours after it agreed with Israel to build a pipeline from Israel›s offshore Leviathan gas field to Egypt. The Israeli field, 130 kilometers west of the Mediterranean port city of Haifa, is estimated to contain 535 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves. The agreements with the PA and Israel are only a small detail in Egypt›s rising energy star in the Eastern Mediterranean region. They throw some light on its grand ambitions in the region.

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Egyptian Minister of Petroleum Tarek el-Molla attends the East Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF), in Cairo, on January ,16 2020. (Getty)


Egypt, which made a series of major finds in the past few years, including a gigantic field off its Mediterranean coast in 2015, aspires to become a regional energy hub. It wants to collect gas produced in the region, liquefy it in its sprawling liquefaction plants, and then export it to markets in Europe and other parts of the world. Egypt started importing gas from Israel almost a year ago in the light of a 2019 agreement for the import of 19.5$ billion worth of gas. Egyptian and Cypriot officials are also holding talks on building a pipeline to transport gas produced in Cyprus to Egypt where it will be liquefied and then sent to the

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international market. In January 2019, Egypt and several other East Mediterranean countries founded the East Mediterranean Gas Forum to bring together natural gas producers and consumers in the region for the first time. The forum was elevated to a regional organization in September 2020. «These moves are part of Egypt›s overall goal of becoming a regional energy hub,» Hamdi Abdel Aziz, the official spokesperson for the Egyptian Ministry of Petroleum, told Majalla. «This goal is closer to being realized now more than ever before.»


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Despite Peace Talks Resumption, Afghan Killings Rise U.S. Shifts Afghan Approach with Gov’t, Taliban Ezzatullah Mehrdad In a luxury hotel in Doha, Qatar, negotiators representing the Afghan government and the Taliban resumed peace talks this week after a long pause. During the month-long pause in peace talks, killings surged in Afghanistan even as a new administration in the United States shaped its policies toward the long-running conflict. The Afghan peace talks went to a break in late December last year. The Taliban met the Afghan government negotiators once in early January 2021, then the talks stalled. The Afghan peace talks were scheduled to resume in early January 2021, but Taliban negotiators were absent until late February. Meanwhile, in the United States President Joe Biden took over on January 20. Now as the peace talks resume, some of the Biden administration’s policies are emerging. The administration has signaled a tougher

approach toward the Taliban and friendlier ties with the Afghan government. Mohammad Naim, a Taliban negotiator, said that the talks on the night of February 22 were held in a “good atmosphere.” He added that both sides “emphasized a resumption of peace talks.” Nader Nadery, an Afghan government negotiator, however, said that the Taliban made excuses for not talking. Similarly, the Taliban had previously refused to negotiate while they “demanded the U.S. to release all Taliban prisoners who are imprisoned by the [Afghan] government,” said Nadery. “These were just tactics of the Taliban.” Instead of talking with the Afghan government during the month-long hiatus, the Taliban made regional trips, including trips to Iran and Russia. While the peace talks stalled, the Biden administration began reviewing the U.S.-Taliban agreement, forged

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under the previous Trump administration. U.S. officials were in close consultation with the Afghan government, according to one senior Afghan official. The Biden administration has yet to publicly announce a clear policy toward the “forever war” in Afghanistan, but the looming deadline for the U.S. troop withdrawal was the number one concern. The U.S.-Taliban agreement signed in February 2020 calls for a total U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan by May 1, 2021 just over two months away. As the deadline loomed, concerns grew over the Taliban’s continued ties with al-Qaida, the terrorist group that attacked the United States in 2001 and dragged the United States into the never-ending war in Afghanistan. The February 2020 agreement requires the Taliban to cut ties with the group and refuse to harbor foreign fighters, including al-Qaida. In response, the Taliban recently issued an order on cutting ties with foreign fighters. The order, issued by Taliban’s military commission, said that the Taliban would punish those fighters who harbor foreign fighters. The resumption of talks with the Afghan government this week also signaled that the Taliban was trying to show their commitment to the U.S.-Taliban agreement.

Security forces fire on Taliban positions during an ongoing operation against Taliban militants in the Sherzad District of Nangarhar Province on February 9, 2021. (Getty)

But the Biden administration has already been friendlier toward the Afghan government. Over the course of recent months, multiple phone calls were made between top U.S. officials and Afghan officials. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke with President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan; so did Secretary of State Antony Blinken. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan spoke with his Afghan counterpart, National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib. In all of these phone calls, the U.S. officials said that the administration was reviewing the U.S.-Taliban agreement and was committed to supporting the Afghan government. “While U.S. has highlighted dialogue with Ghani and the Afghan government, any engagement with the Taliban has gone unmentioned,” said Andrew Watkins, a senior analyst for Afghanistan at Crisis Group. “This may be a correction to the high profile, legitimizing engagement of the Trump administration. The Biden team may consider a quieter approach to the Taliban more effective. But it’s a notable shift.” The previous Trump administration had pursued highprofile engagement with the Taliban, bypassing and angering the Afghan government. President Donald Trump had a phone call with Mullah Ghani Baradar, deputy Taliban leader. Then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met and posed for a photo with Barader in Doha.

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Now as the peace talks resume, some of the Biden administration’s policies are emerging. The administration has signaled a tougher approach toward the Taliban and friendlier ties with the Afghan government. Amid the diplomatic wrangling, the war continues to claim lives, both civilians and combatants alike. The U.S. side insists that the agreement it settled with the Taliban came with the understanding that there would be a reduction in violence. But the Taliban have been reluctant to commit to a full ceasefire. Since signing the agreement, they have waged war largely in rural areas against the Afghan government, killing scores of Afghan forces. The Afghan government also blames the Taliban for widespread magnetic bombs and assassinations in urban areas, including Kabul. Some days, Kabul is rocked by four or more explosions; bombs terrorize the city. So far, the peace talks have failed to make the country safer, even for civilians. The United Nations Mission to Afghanistan documented 3,035 civilians killed in 2020, the seventh consecutive year the death toll topped 3,000. Another 5,786 civilians were wounded last year. Civilians were largely victims of the ground engagements between the Afghan government and the Taliban and improvised explosive devices. Even as talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban began in September 2020, civilian killings surged in the final quarter of 2020, according to the U.N. report. “There was an escalation of violence with disturbing trends and consequences,” read the report. “Ultimately, the best way to protect civilians is to establish a humanitarian ceasefire,” said Deborah Lyons, the U.N. Secretary-General’s Representative for Afghanistan. “Parties refusing to consider a ceasefire must recognize the devastating consequences of such a posture on the lives of Afghan civilians.” This article was originally published in The Diplomat.


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Myanmar’s Ethnic Groups Jointly Reject Military Rule Protests Offer Different Ethnic Narrative and Vision of Future Democracy Tom Fawthrop From the streets of Yangon to the mountain strongholds of ethnic peoples, the diverse peoples of Myanmar are forging a rare unity in their nationwide mass protests against the February 1 military coup. Junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing had not expected

his surgical coup, which toppled Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) government and shut down parliament, would unleash one of the biggest civil disobedience movements of all time, and the largest general strike in the country’s history The Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) has inspired civil servants, doctors, nurses, railway workers, copper miners, and engineers to refuse to work for the “illegal

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regime.” The movement has brought almost all civil services and other government administration grinding to a full stop, not only in the big cities of Yangon and Mandalay but also in the ethnic states. The junta had expected to sow divisions by exploiting the bitter disappointment felt by millions of ethnic peoples over the failure of the NLD government to do anything to enhance their rights. Even Myanmar’s democratic leaders showed weak regard for ethnic groups’ demands for autonomy and social justice based on the 1947 Panglong Agreement. Soon after the junta set up a State Administrative Council to run the country, a good many invitations were sent out to ethnic political parties and to lure them into joining the junta’s SAC. Most ethnical political parties turned the invitation down. However, the decision was not always easy. The Mon United party was far from united on this question, and after a stormy debate among their executive members, a majority agreed to send a representative to the SAC. This controversial decision was widely condemned by Mon communities and triggered many resignations. The military had been counting on anti-NLD sentiment to keep different ethnicities alienated from Myanmar’s majority ethnic group, the Bamar, the main source of NLD support.

Protesters hold placards and ethnic flags as they march during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar on February 2021 ,18. (Getty)

Naw Zipporah Sein, former vice president of the Karen National Union (KNU) understands this widespread ethnic distrust of the NLD. But she told The Diplomat that “although the NLD leaders have shown very little knowledge or respect for ethnic peoples when they were the running the government, but now is the time for unity.” “We have to put our differences aside,” she emphasized. “The coup is everybody’s enemy.” The Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) based around ethnic Shan people is one of the strongest ethnic political parties. It won 42 seats in the 2020 election. In a similar vein to the KNU, the SNLD strongly advocated for a position of unifying all parties against the coup. It came as another blow to the junta’s game plan when the 10 ethnic armed groups that are part of a floundering Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) announced on February 20 that they would no longer negotiate with the military government, and will support efforts to topple it. Their statement read “We support the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) and public protests against the military coup and military dictatorship, and we are going to find ways to support these movements and protests.” The military has most reason to be nervous about two out of the 10 ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) in this grouping: The Restoration Council of Shan State and the Karen National Union, which each administer and control significant territory. Another strong resistance force in

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The military had been counting on anti-NLD sentiment to keep different ethnicities alienated from Myanmar’s majority ethnic group, the Bamar, the main source of NLD support. the far north, the Kachin Independence Organization, has warned that its armed wing, the Kachin Independence Army, may take action to prevent the Tatmadaw from shooting unarmed demonstrators. The wooing of ethnic parties has resulted in a succession of snubs, with the biggest exception being the Arakan National Party (ANP), which placed third in the 2020 general election with four seats. The NLD government’s enthusiastic backing of a vicious military campaign against the Arakan Army in Rakhine State, and the resulting displacement of 200,000 mostly Buddhist villagers who were forced to flee their homes, was hardly a great votewinner. However, many ANP party supporters and almost 50 Rakhine civil society groups condemned the party’s decision to send a representative to join the SAC. Many youth members quit the party in protest. But by far, most ethnic peoples have resoundingly rejected military rule, making their views known within the broadbased movement. This has given them a new visibility in anti-coup rallies and the CDM. Predictions that the junta could quickly crush the opposition have proved to be unfounded. The 2021 movement is not like the 1962 coup, nor the uprisings of 1988 and 2007. Back then, there was no social media presence in Myanmar and ethnic states had no chance to learn about what was happening in Yangon. This time, the social media and info-tech savvy youth, known as Generation Z, have made a major difference in keeping communication flowing and getting information out, even when the military junta shuts down the internet. Never has the Tatmadaw been under so much pressure, and on so many fronts. In that sense, one victory has already been achieved: the Myanmar military has lost its aura of invincibility. The support from ethnic groups is immensely significant for the CDM. Ethnic minorities, with an estimate population of 17 million account for around one-third of Myanmar’s total population.


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In the early days of protest in Yangon and Mandalay, the demands, placards, photos, and slogans of street protests were all about freeing “Mother Suu,” the nickname of NLD President Aung San Suu Kyi, who was arrested (along with the other NLD leaders) on the first day of the coup. Aung San Suu Kyi is idolized by her hard-core NLD supporters. Their banners and placards read “Release Mother Suu,” referring to many Bamar people’s depiction of her as the mother of the nation. They held the party’s flags and clutched photos of Aung San Suu Kyi. These images strengthened the narrative of the coup as only a fight between the military and the NLD. But this obsessive focus on just one of many political prisoners tended to alienate and offended those who are aware of her terrible human rights record in office since 2015. A Rakhine journalist spoke for many ethnic minorities about their view of Aung San Suu Kyi’s governance from 2020-2015: “I felt abandoned when she remained silent as the military committed alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Kachin, Shan, and my own Rakhine people,” Kyaw Hsan Hlaing wrote for Frontier Myanmar. “…I cannot support a government that does such things.” It is understandable that many people living close to these war-zones, while condemning the coup, are not clamoring for the restoration of Suu Kyi’s government. But in an important development, the mass protests have since moved on with other narratives and visions of a future democracy. The General Strike Committee has uniquely managed to collect 24 ethnic minority groups and also the NLD under the same umbrella. “We respect the vote of the people in the 2020 general election, and will strive to remove the 2008 constitution that always allows

The Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) has inspired civil servants, doctors, nurses, railway workers, copper miners, and engineers to refuse to work for the “illegal regime.”

military dictatorship and military might, to hold sway over the nation legally,” the committee vowed. Increasingly activists view the experiment of a hybrid government, with the NLD sharing power with the Tatmadaw, as a failure that should not be repeated within the framework of the discredited 2008 constitution. The constitution, passed under a military-backed government, reserves outsized political influence for the Tatmadaw, regardless of election results. The KNU’s Zipporah Sein, a member of the group’s negotiating team for peace talks, concluded that “The NLD’s attempt to amend the constitution has failed.” She added, “Likewise the coup bears witness to the fact that it is impossible to amend the 2008 Constitution via the political dialogues based on the NCA and in the parliament.” However as the Civil Disobedience Movement, with fullthroated support from Generation Z and ethnic participation, blossomed, flourished, and coalesced, the demands have veered away from an exclusive focus on releasing NLD leaders and restoring the pre-coup status quo. The ethnic narrative that calls for scrapping the much- detested 2008 constitution is now a main theme of demonstrators not only in the far northern Kachin capital of Myitkyina and

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This combination of pictures created on March 2021 ,1 shows protesters wearing basic protective gear during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on March 1. (Getty)


Shan State’s Taunggyi, but also increasingly in Yangon and Mandalay This multi-ethnic nation has long been divided by ethnicity, dominated by the lowland majority ethnic group known as the Bamar, and oppressed by the highly centralized military regimes. This is the kind of dysfunctional union that the minority ethnic peoples, joined by most of the young generation, are committed to changing. As Kyaw Hsan Hlaing wrote: “The current upheaval is devastating, but it also offers a great opportunity. As we join together in opposing military rule, we must also unite under a positive vision that values the rights of all. It is a critical moment in our history, and it must not be squandered.” With so many ethnic political parties rejecting all offers from the new regime, and the mass CDM boycott bringing administration, banks, and vital parts of the economy grinding to a halt, it may prove impossible for the regime to quell the protests and consolidate its rule – in short, the country could become ungovernable. The specter of a failed state in Southeast Asia is sure to motivate a flurry of secret diplomacy, but if any eventual agreement excludes Myanmar’s youth and ethnic peoples, it is hard to see how

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With so many ethnic political parties rejecting all offers from the new regime, and the mass CDM boycott bringing administration, banks, and vital parts of the economy grinding to a halt, it may prove impossible for the regime to quell the protests and consolidate its rule it represent a solution. This article was originally published in The Diplomat. Tom Fawthrop covered the Saffron Revolution in The Guardian and has published features on Myanmar with The Diplomat, The Economist, and the South China Morning Post.


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Is China’s Covid - 19 Diplomacy Working in Southeast Asia? Prospects of Beijing’s Global Cooperation Can Ease its Neighbors’ Concerns Dingding Chen Many observers have discussed how China is using its Covid-19 medical aid as a means to improve its soft power, or even to exert geopolitical control overseas. A recent poll of Southeast

Asian states might suggest a more mixed picture: While most Southeast Asian countries acknowledged that their powerful neighbor has contributed the most to the region in coping with the pandemic, the very same poll also showed that China’s image has actually deteriorated in the re-

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gion over the past year. The State of Southeast Asia 2021 poll, conducted by Singapore’s ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute on regional economic and political elites, found that a whopping 44.2 percent of the respondents considered China to have “provided the most help to the region for Covid-19,” with Japan, the EU, and the U.S. trailing far behind. Nevertheless, the respondents appear to be skeptical toward China’s prowess in the region. While China is considered by a comfortable majority to be the most influential economic and strategic-political power in the region, more than 70 percent of the respondents consider that to be worrisome. When faced with a binary choice between the United States and China, only 38.5 percent of the respondents preferred China over the U.S., down from 46.4 percent last year, and only three out of 10 countries retained a pro-China majority, down from seven last years. Especially with regards to the South China Sea, 62.4 percent of the respondents see China’s military build-up as a top concern, while only 12.5 percent feel the same way regarding the U.S. presence. A logo of Sinovac Biotech Ltd. is seen at the company›s headquarters on February 20, 2021 in Beijing, China. (Getty Images)

Against the backdrop of heightened U.S.-China tensions last year and the region’s role as one of the major battlegrounds in the rift between United States and China, Southeast Asians are worried about the prospective that vaccines might be used as a way to exert influence.

Most importantly, against the backdrop of heightened U.S.-China tensions last year and the region’s role as one of the major battlegrounds in the rift between United States and China, Southeast Asians are worried about the prospective that vaccines might be used as a way to exert influence. This might have brought more scrutiny to Chinese vaccines, which are cheaper, but mainly are produced by the state-owned companies like Sinopharm, as opposed to private companies like Pfizer and AstraZeneca. While the state backing What might explain this discrepancy? One fac- of Chinese vaccines means that they can be detor might be the timing of the survey. The sur- livered more efficiently through central planning, vey was conducted in November 2020, by which it also strengthens the image of a connection betime many of the Southeast Asian countries tween vaccines and China’s national security and had kept the virus under control. By this point, interests, and does little to alleviate Southeast China’s “mask diplomacy” in the earlier days Asians’ distrust over China’s possible infringeof the pandemic still left a profound impression, ments of sovereignty, which hit a record high at but factored less in the respondents’ general im- 63 percent in the 2021 ISEAS survey. pression of the country. The pandemic has since moved onto the vaccine stage, and multiple The politicized nature of the vaccine issue also countries – including China, the U.S., India and makes China’s vaccine a convenient tool conRussia – are competing on level playing ground flated with domestic politics and nationalism over vaccine provision, which has become high- as well. Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ly politicized. While China promised to prioritize decision to vaccinate his country’s population Mekong countries in vaccine provision as early with 600,000 donated Sinopharm vaccines has as August last year, and pledged millions of cor- sparked some public concerns, which he sought onavirus vaccine donations to Southeast Asian to assuage by asking Cambodians to disregard countries either bilaterally or through the WHO the origins of the vaccine. Thailand’s decision Covax scheme, the general public in the region to withdraw from Covax and rely mostly on are now scrutinizing issues such as the diversifi- Sinovac’s vaccines is also controversial, especation of vaccine provision, avoiding being used cially against the backdrop of the ongoing anas experimental objects, and cost-effectiveness ti-governmental protests. In a recent panel on of the vaccines. China’s vaccine diplomacy, a Vietnamese expert

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also expressed concerns over how to reconcile Vietnam’s domestic anti-China sentiment with inoculating its population with Chinese vaccines. However, it is still too early to rush to a conclusion on whether China’s Covid-19 diplomacy has been successful or not in Southeast Asia. For one, the Chinese government itself has refrained from using terms such as “vaccine diplomacy” and instead stressed the humanitarian nature of its global assistance efforts. That makes it difficult to assess what China’s agenda is in the first place, especially given that curbing the pandemic in neighboring countries is also beneficial for China itself. And even if extending global influence is one of China’s considerations, while China’s image in the region might not have improved in the past year, it has maintained a steady lead in terms of regional influence and acknowledgement for its regional contribution to fighting Covid-19. Moreover, the respondent composition of the ISEAS survey has always been fluid, and leaves some confounding variables, such as respondents’ political leanings, unaddressed. It may not have presented the whole picture, given the disproportionately high representation of respond-

The Chinese government itself has refrained from using terms such as “vaccine diplomacy” and instead stressed the humanitarian nature of its global assistance efforts. That makes it difficult to assess what China’s agenda is in the first place.

ents from Singapore and Myanmar, and low representation from Vietnam and Indonesia. The fact that the survey was conducted two weeks after Biden was elected U.S. president meant that respondents were still in an optimistic post-election mood about the effectivity of a U.S. comeback to balance China in the region, which might distort the results especially regarding U.S.-China comparisons. Therefore, it is important not to over-interpret its results, especially with regards to cross-time comparisons. Most importantly, while the world watched in

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A four-star general receives the Sinopharm vaccine from China during the first day of vaccinations against the Covid-19 coronavirus at a hospital in Phnom Penh on February 10, 2021. (Getty Images)


dismay last year as China and the United States exchanged animosity over Covid-19, the Biden administration has promised more international cooperation to address the pandemic, including working with China. Under this scenario, China’s aid efforts are less likely to be perceived as a bilateral issue, but more as part of an international effort against the common enemy of Covid-19. Southeast Asian countries are also less likely to face the binary choices they dread, which is also problematic for Beijing since it amplifies Southeast Asia’s threat perception as a result of geographic proximity and territorial

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disputes. If this scenario pans out, hopefully we can see global governance restored as a stabilizing buffer zone between Beijing and Washington, which is clearly in the interests of all parties involved. Yang Lizhong is a research assistant at Intellisia Institute. Chen Dingding is the founder and president of Intellisia Institute, an independent think tank in Guangzhou, China. This article was originally published in The Diplomat.


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Ban All Big Mergers U.S. Antitrust Legislation to Check Corporate Power? By Robert H. Lande and Sandeep Vaheesan The oil giants ExxonMobil and Chevron each have assets valued in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Last year, The Wall Street Journal recently revealed, the two companies considered what would have been among the largest corporate mergers in history—a deal that would

have reunited parts of the Standard Oil empire that federal trustbusters broke apart in 1911. In the end, ExxonMobil and Chevron didn’t attempt the transaction. But had the companies insisted on it, today’s antitrust authorities probably would have permitted the tie-up. Mergers among the very largest corporations are rarely stopped. Our research found that, out of

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the 78 proposed mergers from 2015 to 2019 in which the smaller firm was valued at more than 10$ billion, the federal government attempted to block a grand total of only five on antitrust grounds and successfully stopped just three of them. In February 2020, a district judge allowed T-Mobile (with a premerger equity valuation of more than 50$ billion) to acquire Sprint for 30$ billion and gave control of the national wireless market to just three carriers. As evidence mounts that corporate consolidation and concentration raise prices to consumers, eliminate jobs, depress wages, marginalize independent businesses, and breed economic and political inequality, Democrats in Congress, possibly in collaboration with some Republican colleagues, appear poised to crack down on monopoly and prevent further consolidation. At the top of this agenda should be a law that simply and unambiguously prevents all megamergers— which we would define as transactions in which the acquirer and the target each has more than 10$ billion in assets.

Signage at an Exxon Mobil Corp. gas station in Houston, Texas, U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. ,28 2020. (Getty)

Such a rule would have stopped dozens of mergers that were completed in the second half of the 2010s, including the acquisitions of SABMiller by Anheuser-Busch InBev, Aetna by CVS, and Monsanto by Bayer. In general, corporate consolidation does not improve business productivity. Melissa Schilling, a business professor at New York University, has concluded that “most mergers do not create value for anyone, except perhaps the investment bankers who negotiated the deal.” Those findings make the government’s willingness to rubber-stamp so many recent mergers all the more remarkable. The Congresses that enacted the nation’s antitrust laws understood that unchecked corporate power makes a mockery of democratic norms. In 1890, Senator John Sherman, an Ohio Republican, helped develop the nation’s first federal antitrust act in response to the rise of corporate and financial titans such as J.P. Morgan. Sherman insisted that the country’s economic life should not be dominated by “a few men sitting at their council board in the

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As evidence mounts that corporate consolidation and concentration raise prices to consumers, eliminate jobs, depress wages, marginalize independent businesses, and breed economic and political inequality, Democrats in Congress, possibly in collaboration with some Republican colleagues, appear poised to crack down on monopoly and prevent further consolidation. city of New York.” In a 1958 decision, the Supreme Court echoed this theme, stating that “the Sherman Act was designed to be a comprehensive charter of economic liberty” that aimed to provide “an environment conducive to the preservation of our democratic political and social institutions.” Sadly, that tradition gave way in the 1970s and ’80s, as federal judges, the Justice Department’s antitrust division, and the Federal Trade Commission all came under the spell of dubious interpretations of history and economic theories strikingly tolerant of mergers and monopolistic practices. Without strong evidence that mergers will raise consumer prices and reduce economic output, federal antitrust agencies and courts hesitate to act even against companies that dominate their market. For the Justice Department, the FTC, and courts reviewing merger matters, considerations of political power, including the absolute size of the corporations involved, are irrelevant. The history of consolidation in the oil industry is revealing and suggests that an ExxonMobilChevron merger is not far-fetched. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the FTC permitted very large oil and gas corporations to merge on the condition that they sold off gas stations, refineries, and other assets to “preserve competition” in markets where they were head-


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to-head competitors or in a position to exclude rivals. The tolerance of mergers has spread corporate concentration and its attendant inequality into virtually every corner of the economy: health care, airlines, cable TV, and now the internet, where Amazon, Facebook, and other sprawling new monopolists reign. A small clique of executives and financiers makes key decisions in our economy. Many figures across the political spectrum are now urging a return to the kind of antitrust enforcement that once helped preserve a variety of independent businesses in every community. Among these voices, for example, is Senator Elizabeth Warren, who called for tight merger restrictions for companies that have more than 40$ billion in annual revenues. In a fall 2019 presidential-candidate debate, she said: “We need to enforce our antitrust laws, break up these giant companies that are dominating Big Tech, Big Pharma, Big Oil, all of them.” Earlier this month, Senator Amy Klobuchar, together with four co-sponsors, proposed including a corporation’s absolute size in merger analysis. In October 2018, Senator Bernie Sanders

The tolerance of mergers has spread corporate concentration and its attendant inequality into virtually every corner of the economy: health care, airlines, cable TV, and now the internet, where Amazon, Facebook, and other sprawling new monopolists reign.

introduced a bill that would break up the largest financial institutions in the United States and establish a cap on size going forward. Although conservatives in the United States have generally supported Big Business interests, more voices on the right are grafting concerns about corporate power, particularly in digital markets, onto an otherwise standard right-wing agenda. Although former President Donald Trump’s administration had a poor antitrust record against large corporations and supported pro-monopoly reinterpretations of the law, it did file landmark suits against Google and Facebook in the closing months of 2020. Embracing some forms of economic populism, media outlets such as The American Conservative have

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Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, speaks during a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee confirmation hearing, in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. (Getty)


The status quo, in which virtually every merger goes forward, almost regardless of the potential damage to customers, suppliers, rivals, workers, and even democracy, is arbitrary in its own way and runs contrary to the public interest. suppliers, rivals, workers, and even democracy, is arbitrary in its own way and runs contrary to the public interest. Under the legislation we propose, a future merger between Chevron and ExxonMobil would be plainly illegal. Even if they agreed to sell some assets to a third party—as many merging companies do—the two oil titans would not be able to get their transaction past the antitrust authorities. The companies probably would not even contemplate such a combination in the boardroom.

also become supporters of renewed antitrust enforcement. Building on ideologically diverse opposition to corporate consolidation, Congress should pass legislation that strikes at mergers, a major contributor to the curse of corporate bigness. A ban on mergers involving companies that have more than 10$ billion in assets might be a somewhat arbitrary line to draw— Congress could reasonably choose a higher or lower threshold—but the formulation and administration of law, which establishes the rules of a market, requires a degree of linedrawing. Anyway, the status quo, in which virtually every merger goes forward, almost regardless of the potential damage to customers,

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By establishing a bright line, an outright ban on the largest mergers would reduce the role of contending lobbyists, lawyers, and rented economists in merger cases, thereby making the whole process clearer, faster, more predictable, less expensive, and less subjective, as we explain at greater length in a recent law-review article. A ban on megamergers would reduce the amount of money and human energy currently wasted in putting together unproductive consolidations. It would help end the arms race of consolidation, in which mergers beget mergers as firms try to keep up with ever larger and more powerful corporate rivals, suppliers, and customers. By potentially channeling these resources into new productive capacity and technologies, the law could result in a real increase in society’s overall wealth and pace of progress. This was originally published in The Atlantic Online.


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Saudi Arabia Explores its Dromedary Heritage Potential Over 1.4 Million Camels Promise Kingdom a Lead Role in Global Camel Market and Tourism Industry Jeddah: Motasem Al Felou After activating the new tourist visa regime in 2019, Saudi Arabia has become a new destination for tourists who love to explore the Kingdom and experience unique adventures that do not exist anywhere else in the world. One such attraction is

the King Abdul Aziz Camel Festival (KAACF) organized by the Saudi Camel Club (SCC). This is one of the biggest in the world with the participation of 38,000 camels and 1800 contestants, both local and international. The activities vary between camel beauty contests (Mazayeen), racing, auctions, camel milk tasting, etc.

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“There were tourists from the UK, USA, Germany and many Asian countries (at the KAACF) at the 5th edition was concluded early this year. They all shared the passion for camel racing and other camel competitions. We could have more foreign tourist if COVID19- had not existed,” said one attendee to Majalla. In a bid to boost its cultural heritage industries, Saudi Arabia has been working to turn itself into a global hub for the camel industry. With more than 1.4 camels, Currently, Saudi Arabia ranks 3rd globally in the number of camels after the Sudan and Somalia. A couple of years ago, the Saudi Cabinet has approved the national database for tracking camels. In 2020, the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture finalized implanting more than 1.4 m rice-grain-size microchips beneath the skin of the neck of each camel. By the end of September 2020, Saudi Arabia has finished the automatic numbering of its camel herd. Those digitized camels can be tracked, bought, and sold easily. The digitization helps in confirming ownership, discover infected camels, and restore the camels in case they get lost or stolen. The Kingdom last year launched the largest camel hospital in the world. It spans 70,000 sqm with a total investment of USD 26 m. The facility is specialized in camel veterinary treatment and helps enhance veterinary facilities in the Kingdom.

An Iraqi participant walks past camel statues displayed at the entrance of the annual King Abdulaziz Camel Festival in Rumah, some 160 kilometres east of Riyadh, on December 2020 ,24. (Getty)

DROMEDARY HERITAGE Undoubtedly, the moving spirit behind this interest in the ‘ship of the desert’ is Sheikh Fahad bin Hathleen, Chairman of the Saudi Camel Club, founded in 2017. He has been leading local and international initiatives to promote the camel industry in the Kingdom as well as globally. In March 2019, Shaikh Fahad launched the International Organization of Camels (IOC) which represents an alliance that includes 100 countries across all continents. The alliance has taken important steps to further consolidate the camel industry such as holding the first camel owners’ conference in Europe (October 2019) and announcing the establishment of the European Society of Camel Owners in Switzerland. The IOC has also appointed “IOC Ambassadors” whose role is to spread awareness of the dromedary heritage worldwide. The fifth edition of the KAACF attracted hundreds of camel lovers to the city of Al Sayahid Al Janoubia, 120 km from the capital, Riyadh where it was held. The widespread appeal was signaled by the participation of the camel-cow Victoria who was brought all the way from Colombia City, USA, to take part in the Camel Beauty Contest by her owner Hassan Joseph. There were also auctions, camel training workshops and racing activities.

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The foreign participation in the latest version of KAACF opened new doors for a new special interest tourism, where camel lovers and owners can visit the Kingdom to satisfy their interest, learn more and enrich their awareness. The foreign participation in the latest version of KAACF opened new doors for a new special interest tourism, where camel lovers and owners can visit the Kingdom to satisfy their interest, learn more and enrich their awareness. Saudi Arabia is a virgin country for tourists and there are high hopes of increasing the sector’s share in the non-oil GDP.

FOOD INDUSTRY For centuries, camel milk had been the main food source for inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula. More people now are looking for organic foods everywhere in the world and camel milk seems to be the next hero in the milk market. “I love camel milk. From time to time, I go to my friend’s farm to have it fresh. My fridge is never empty of that milk. It’s healthier and full of nutrients, and most importantly, it is lactose-free”, a fan of camel milk and meat named Khalid told Majalla. Interestingly, Saudi Arabia exports camel milk to Western countries. Camel cheese and other dairy products have a great potential to be unlocked by ambitious investors. While some Saudi traditional restaurants serve camel meat with rice, more fast-food restaurants are taking more interest in serving camel burgers to customers! Opening world-class camel meat factories could be the new investment trend in the Kingdom according to people working in the industry. Despite such lofty dreams and genuine progress, the Kingdom has a long way to go to promote the camel industry within its borders and globally. The dream of being a global, sustainable hub for the industry could be realized faster than expected if the momentum is kept up.


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Egyptian Draft Law Sparks Anger NGOs, Social Media Mostly Reject the Proposal By: Salma Adham During the previous days Egyptian Society witnessed widespread controversy following the an-nouncement of a new project proposal for personal status in Egypt submitted by the government to the House of Representatives. The proposal included some points related to marriage, divorce and other issues regarding the Egyptian family. Whereas the draft law supplementing the Constitution is one of the most prominent draft laws on the agenda of the House of Representatives in the current legislative session,

the previous draft proposal was tabled during the last legislative term. The proposal discusses many social issues, such as engagement, marriage, as well as the custody and care of children in the event of a separation between the spouses. However, the proposal met with campaigns rejecting it in media, social media platforms, and by human rights activists and women’s organizations. They declared that this proposal detracted from the rights of women and did not address fundamental issues that were required to be discussed before introducing the bill.

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(Getty)

Given these circumstances, the Speaker of Parliament decided to refer it to the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee of the House, but the matter has not yet been finally resolved nor has any decision been issued. Although some of the most noticeable points presented in the new draft Personal Status Law are: - Imposing a penalty on a husband who marries for a second time without informing his first wife. - Providing that the husband acknowledges in the marriage document his marital status. If he is married, he must indicate in the acknowledgment the name of the wife or wives who are respon-sible from him and their place of residence. A notary must notify her of the new marriage by a reg-istered letter to which is attached an acknowledgment of receipt. The Egyptian Center for Women›s Rights issued a press statement rejecting the proposal, explaining that it does not fit the «current era,» and it is based on a reactionary and militant school of juris-prudence. Moreover, it was prepared without involving all groups of society. Aside from these omissions, the proposal detracts from the value of the woman and treats her as incompetent. According to the draft law, the husband who marries without informing his wife is punished by im-prisonment for a period not exceeding one year and must pay a fine from 20 to 50 thousand pounds. The marriage official is also punished for not informing the first wife. But what other issues related to women are subject to debate? Nihad Abu Al-Qumsan, Head of the National Center, stated that the philosophy of law does not see women as having independent legal personalities. The proposal does not give the right to a woman to marry according to her own choice as it acknowledges the legal right of her brother or father to terminate the marriage contract if he sup-poses that the couple is mismatched. The mother is not given any legal charge over her children, ignoring that a third of Egyptian families are headed by a woman. Moreover, relying on the Abu Hanifa doctrine in matters that are not clearly stated in the law, the draft law gives men in the family the right to prevent women from traveling. Lawyer Azza Soliman told Majalla, «The law is disappointing because Christians have also been ig-nored. Christians have many problems and need a law based on many principles such as freedom, justice, and citizenship.» The law must not ignore some parties at the expense of others and this law pushes us backwards from we are in 2021, she added. «It is necessary to create a societal dialogue between all institu-tions concerned with the issue,” Ms. Soliman stated. There have been reactions to the new law from NGOs, such as their demand to create a community dialogue through Zoom that includes women and men to discuss some points

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The proposal does not give the right to a woman to marry according to her own choice as it acknowledges the legal right of her brother or father to terminate the marriage contract if he sup-poses that the couple is mismatched. such as legal philoso-phy and constitutional reference. «If a woman is not mature enough to choose her husband, how can she marry and make a family? She must have a choice from beginning to end in a consensual relationship, and not be bound by a decision from anyone else or by extraneous evidence.» Azza Soliman added. On the other hand, Dr. Ahmed Karima, a Professor of Islamic Law at Al-Azhar University, criticized the media for the proposal that a husband would be imprisoned for a year and fined 20,000 pounds if he marries another without his wife›s knowledge or notification. He opined that «it is not permis-sible… that there should be any punishment except for a crime, or any punishment for a man who used his legitimate rights.” Karima added that the law is totally and completely contrary to Islamic Sharia. He added that this is unconstitutional because the Constitution states that Islamic law is the main source of legisla-tion. Azza Suleiman asked Majalla what is the intended norm of equality expressed in the draft law re-garding the termination of the marriage by any man in the family? Placing an overseer on women›s decisions perpetuates the idea of women as a commodity. Parliamentary Representative Nashwa Al-Deeb confirmed in a statement that the husband commits a crime when he marries an additional wife – “A woman can go crazy, commit suicide, get sick, and none of this is a crime for which the law will hold him accountable.” The Representative added “there is an offense resulting from a second marriage and the crime is greater if there is no information.” She stressed that this law would be a protection for the first wife and noted that she is against imprisonment but supports the imposition of a heavy fine on the husband. The first wife should have the right to divorce, be awarded the marital apartment and to receive a monthly payment that is sufficient for her social level. All these issues have not been resolved yet and the draft law was referred to the Legislative and Constitutional Committee to determine whether there will be further discussion or amendments to it.


A Weekly Political News Magazine

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Sameera Fazili: The second Kashmiri origin woman in US administration

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Of Women Who Empower Inspiring Models in Arab and Egyptian History By Amira Noshokaty On this occasion of International Women’s Day, we have an opportunity to revisit certain terminol-ogy that has always been affiliated with women. ‘Empowering women’ has been the main cause for women in Egypt and the Arab world for decades. No one denies that the majority of women in our region are still striving for their rights even in this day and age. However, it would be very interesting to take a retrospective look at the achievements of some inspiring women who seemed to empower their societies rather than be empowered by them.

WOMEN DOCTORS In ancient Egypt, women were the first doctors in human history, according to Fatma Keshk, an Egyptologist. However, according to publication titled “Women and the Medical Profession in Islamic Societies between the 7th to 17th Century A.D,” by Dr. Omaima Abu Bakr and Dr. Hoda Al-Saadi, (Women and Memory Association, 1999), the first woman doctor in the Arab world to be mentioned was Rofida Al-Islamia. Moreover, historians believe that Rofida’s tent was the first hospital in Islam, ac-cording to “Histoire Des Bimaristans a L’époque Islamique,” by Ahmed Eissa (1928). A woman doctor known as the daughter of Shihab ElDin Al-Sayegh used to work and practice medi-cine in

Dar-Al- Shifaa Al-Mansoury, the biggest hospital in Egypt during the middle ages.

ARAB WOMEN PHARMACISTS As for pharmacists and chemists, women in the 13th century played a big role in inventing and making medicines, such as Zeinab Bent Bani Oud, who created her own eye remedy. Set Al-Sham, the sister of King Turan Shah, used to supervise the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals in her own house and would dispense them to the public.

EGYPTIAN WOMEN AND ECONOMY According to the publication “The Urban Economic Activities of Women in Islamic Egypt” by Dr. Omayma Abu Bakr and Dr. Hoda Al-Sadi, (Women and Memory Association 1999), many women used to travel side-by-side with men on trade trips as detailed by correspondence found at the Red Sea port of Qosseir. Sources reveal that during the Mamluk and Ottoman era, women used to do their own financing using a method that seems very similar to the popular gameia informal system. Women would form a small group and collect a fixed amount of money from the members every month. Each woman would get the accumulated amount of money in her turn. Egyptian women had their place in the traditional markets working side-by-side with men. Many women

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These models raise a very important question regarding our own perception of women – Do women really require new incentives to become empowered, or is it society at large that needs to re-fresh its memory and acknowledge women’s role and impact? THE EGYPTIAN WOMAN WHO BUILT CAIRO UNIVERSITY Princess Fatma Ismail (1853-1920), the unique daughter of Khedive Ismail (1863-1879), was the woman who lobbied, fundraised and donated her own land for Egypt’s first national university which opened its doors in 1908. It was called the Egyptian University back then and the main metal gates of the university still bear the name “Egyptian University.” In addition, Princess Fatma’s name is engraved on the front entrance to one of the buildings of the Faculty of Arts.

THE FIRST EGYPTIAN WOMAN TO FLY .Princess Fatma Ismail

supported their families from this occupation.

ARAB AND EGYPTIAN WOMEN AND JOURNALISM In 1892 “Al Fata” became the first women’s magazine in Egypt and was created by Hend Nofal, a Syrian woman. Nofal’s enterprise was supported by her parents. The magazine focused on stories about women who were established and inspiring. “Al Fata” also featured women’s rights and the best ways to attain them. Shortly after that, in 1898, “Anis Al Galis” (Keeping One’s Company) was published, which made it Egypt’s first women’s magazine owned and edited by an Egyptian woman, Matilda Avirion.

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In 1933, Lotfia Al-Nady made headlines as the first Egyptian woman to fly. Al-Nady was an inspiration to all women of the Middle East. About ten years later, in 1944, Egypt had its first woman aviation instructor - Captain Linda Massoud. These models of women who were creative, served their societies and helped open the doors for other women to accomplish all their dreams, are but a few examples of women from the Egyptian and Arab realm that make us all proud. However, they raise a very important question regarding our own perception of women – Do women really require new incentives to become empowered, or is it society at large that needs to refresh its memory and acknowledge women’s role and im-pact?


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Sameera Fazili: The second Kashmiri origin woman in US administration. By Majalla Illustration by Ali Minadalou She is the deputy director of the National Economic Council in the Biden administration. She came to the spot light when she gave a White House press briefing last week about Biden’s policy to a tackle certain supply chain problems. Wearing Islamic hijab inside the White House press room, her photo was splashed across news and social media platforms garnering praise signaling an evi-dent change from Trump’s era that was marred by Islamophobia. Sameera Fazili is a daughter to Kashmiri immigrants, Mohammad Yusuf Fazili and Rafiqa Fazili, both doctors, who migrated to the US from Kashmir, India. She was appointed last month to the National Economic Council which considers economic policy matters and provides advice to the US presi-dent. Prior to her appointment, she served as the director of engagement for community and economic development in the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta (now on a temporary professional leave, as mentioned on the FRBA website). She graduated from Yale Law School in 2006. At Yale, she was the student chair of the Middle East Legal Studies Seminar and also served on the board of the Critical Islamic Reflections conference. Before law school, Sameera worked at Karamah: Muslim Women

Lawyers for Human Rights. While with Karamah, she testified before the US Congress on the reli-gious freedom of Muslims in Western Europe. She also received a bachelor of arts in social studies from Harvard College. Fazili was also a clinical lecturer at Yale Law School’s community and economic development clin-ic, where she helped start a CDFI bank and a local anti-foreclosure initiative, and expanded the clinic’s work to international microfinance. Fazili is the second person of Kashmiri-origin and an Indian-American chosen to a key position in the incoming Biden administration. Her appointment has sparked jubilation among her extended family in Srinagar. “We are very proud. Everybody in Kashmir should be proud as it is a proud moment for the whole of Kashmir,” her uncle Rouf Fazili told PTI. Fazili played a key role in one of the protests within four days of abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019, ET has learnt. She supports ‘Stand with Kashmir’ (SWK) a Kashmiri diaspora-led international solidarity movement. In August 2019, following the abrogation of Article 370, the Council on Amer-ican-Islamic Relations (CAIR) introduced her as a member of SWK. Fazili has also served in the Obama-Biden administration as a senior policy advisor on the White House’s National Economic Council and

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as a senior advisor at the US Treasury Department in both Domestic Finance and International Affairs. Fazili is married and has three children. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia and has extended family in Indian-administered Kashmir. Her sister Yousra Fazili, a human rights lawyer, testified at the No-vember 2019 US Congressional hearing on the revocation of the special status of Jammu and Kash-mir. Her experience in international human rights and development includes work at the World Health Organization and United Nations High Commission for Refugees and her work has taken her to such places as Palestine, Kashmir, and Pakistan. Besides, she also worked at ShoreBank, the na-tion’s first CDFI (community development financial institution) bank. Her work in finance has cov-ered consumer, housing, small business and microfinance. Prior to Fazili’s appointment, the Biden administration appointed another Kashmiriorigin Indian-American, Aisha Shah as Partnerships Manager at the White House Office of Digital Strategy. Before her White House appointment, Shah worked as an assistant manager on the Corporate Fund of the John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, supporting the first-ever expansion of a presidential memorial.


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Laughter Yoga in the Frontline Against Coronavirus in Egypt Sport Classes on the Rise as Psychological Pressures Pile Up Menna A. Farouk This week, in a garden in the upscale neighborhood of Zamalek, a group of people gathered in a circle practicing laughter yoga to reduce some of the psychological pressures that have grown with the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Hundreds of Egyptians are turning to the sport amid the coronavirus pandemic which has increased tension and anxiety and prompted many people to find new, creative ways to overcome the crisis. Sherif Mahmoud, a -46year-old businessman,

was one of the participants in the event. He said that he resorted to laughter yoga to alleviate the psychological effects caused by the coronavirus pandemic. “It is really important to have laughter yoga classes during the pandemic because depression rates are very high amid the lockdown which weaken the immune system and expose many people to contract the virus,” Mahmoud told Majalla after taking part in a laughter yoga class. Mahmoud said that the classes are also crucial beyond the pandemic as psychological pressures have been existing and growing

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A group of people gather in a garden in the upscale neighbourhood of Zamalek to practice laughter yoga )By Menna A. Farouk(

before the outbreak of the coronavirus. Doaa Hosny, another participant in the event, also said that she practiced laughter yoga as a way to reduce tension and stress, which reflected positively on the performance of the immune system and activated brain cells to face the bad news related to the virus. Laughter yoga exercises do not depend on muscle movement but the exercises begin with artificial laughter, which gradually moves among trainees into real laughter. As soon as the facial muscles give a signal to the brain with laughter, a feeling of happiness is transmitted, especially since the brain does not differentiate between real and artificial laughter. A trainer of this sport must have some skills and qualities, beginning with study of the psychology of individuals, the ability to interact as well as the possession of a strong presence and a sense of humor. “Laughter yoga is a beautiful laughter delivery system that was invented by an Indian medical doctor exactly 25 years ago,” Ute Devika Meinel, the laughter yoga teacher who was giving the session, told Majalla.

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Hundreds of Egyptians are turning to the sport amid the coronavirus pandemic which has increased tension and anxiety and prompted many people to find new, creative ways to overcome the crisis. “It contains a beautiful mixture of clapping, breathing, sound and movement. This mixture helps us imitate laughter and become child-like and playful like we were when we were kids,” she added. According to the laughter yoga teacher, the sport has so many different benefits that are really “mind-boggling.” “The most important thing, especially at this point in time, is that it boosts the immune system big time and this has been proven scientifically,” she said. She added that the number of people attending the laughter yoga classes has


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increased during the coronavirus pandemic which reflects people›s desire to overcome negative fears and feelings during the crisis. During the lockdown period that was applied in Egypt starting from last March, Devika was also keen on giving yoga sessions online to support families psychologically to cope with the pandemic. Apart from the pandemic, Devika believes that young people are overwhelmed by a “black cloud” of anxiety and stress. For this reason she says that, if taught and practiced

“It contains a beautiful mixture of clapping, breathing, sound and movement. This mixture helps us imitate laughter and become child-like and playful like we were when we were kids,”

at schools and universities, laughter yoga can make a huge difference in people’s lives. The laughter yoga teacher is also trying to change a social stereotype about women laughing out loud in public. “In Arab culture in general and Egyptian culture in particular, it is a taboo for women to laugh out loud. I want to change that and encourage every woman to laugh for her health and well-being,” she added. Sociologists and psychiatrists, meanwhile, believe that laughter yoga is among the many ways Egyptians use to overcome stress during the pandemic. Ahmed Gamal Abu el-Azayem, a psychiatrist, believes that Egyptians have become aware of how to deal with mental disorders. “During the coronavirus period, many Egyptians devised ways to take advantage of leisure time, by revisiting old popular games like flying kites and practicing sports such as yoga to overcome stress,” he added.

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Laughter yoga teacher Ute Devika Meinel give a class to a group of people in a garden in the upscale neighbourhood of Zamalek in February 27, 2021 )By Menna A. Farouk(


A man and a woman laugh in a laughter yoga class that took place in a garden in the upscale neighbourhood of Zamalek on February 27, 2021

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