Eurasec: a powerful term in the investment glossary?
The Insights of an Oldtime Veteran
Deal Stumbles Richard Weitz
By Caryle Murphy
Issue 1532, 13 November 2009
Editorial Cover Eurasec: a powerful term
The Insights of an Old-time Veteran
in the investment glossary?
Former Prime Minister of Yemen
By Caryle Murphy
Established in 1987 by Prince Ahmad Bin Salman Bin Abdel Aziz
Issue 1532, 13 November 2009
Established by Hisham and Mohamad Ali Hafez
Editor- in- Chief ADEL Al TORAIFI
Managing Director TARIK ALGAIN
The Majalla Magazine HH Saudi Research & Marketing (UK) Limited Arab Press House 182-184 High Holborn, LONDON WC1V 7AP DDI: +44 (0)20 7539 2335/2337 Tel.: +44 (0)20 7821 8181, Fax: +(0)20 7831 2310
to The Majalla Digital, this W elcome week our issue brings to you an analysis of the role of the internet in the politics of the Middle East. We have invited Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Caryle Murphy to evaluate the role of internet communications on politics in the region. Murphy notes that the virtual world offers new opportunities for political expression and communication. As such she questions what impact this freewheeling political discussion and debate in digital space have on real life politics. To complement Murphy’s feature, we have invited two intellectuals to address the question of the role of the internet in the Middle East. More specifically, we have asked “Is the Internet a political supplement or an alternative to actual political weight?” We invite you to read this article and much more on our website at Majalla.com/en. As always, we welcome and value our reader’s feedback and we invite you to take the opportunity to leave your comments or contact us if you are interested in writing for our publication.
Adel Al Toraiﬁ Editor-in-Chief
Contents 08 Geopolitics Iranian Nuclear Deal Stumbles
11 In Brief Around The World Quotes Of The Week Magazine Round Up Letters
18 Features Arab Facebook
27 Debate A Double Edged Sword
32 Ideas Like Oil and Water THE MAJALLA EDITORIAL TEAM London Bureau Chief Manuel Almeida Cairo Bureau Chief Ahmed Ayoub Editors Stephen Glain Paula Mejia Dina Wahba Wesam Sherif Editorial Secretary Jan Singfield Webmaster Mohamed Saleh Translation Sherif Okasha 13 November, 2009
37 People Profile Whatâ€™s in a name? Interview The Insights of an Old-time Veteran
Issue 1532, 13 November 2009
43 Economics Arab Economics Digital Liftoff Interntional Investor Eurasec: a powerful term in the investment glossary? Markets
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51 Reviews Books Reforming education in Saudi Arabia Readings Reports The Afghan Dilemma
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Iranian Nuclear Deal Stumbles Vienna Negotiations Could Shape More than Iran’s Nuclear Program If successful, the negotiations regarding the proposal to have Iranian-made enriched uranium converted to nuclear fuel for Tehran’s research reactor could help promote a broader settlement of the Iranian nuclear file. The arrangement could also serve as a model for other countries seeking nuclear energy but not nuclear weapons.
epresentatives from Iran, France, Russia, and the United States continue to negotiate the details of a possible arrangement, accepted in principle at the October 1 meeting in Geneva, whereby Iran would send approximately three-fourths of its current stocks of low-enriched uranium (LEU) to Russia for further enrichment, from 3.5 percent to the 19.75 percent level required by Tehran’s medical research reactor. The newly enriched uranium would then go to France, where it would be converted into nuclear fuel cells, which are metal plates consisting of a uranium-aluminium alloy that could be used in the reactor. For the past few months, the Iranian government has been seeking to import high-enriched uranium (HEU) nuclear fuel for its medical research reactor in Tehran. The 2,500 pounds of fuel Iran purchased from Argentina in 1993 will be exhausted in about a year. The reactor, built by the United States in the late 1960s, manufactures enough medical isotopes to detect and treat diseases, such as cancer and thyroid disorders, in approximately 10,000 people each week. The Obama administration conceived of the medical enrichment deal. American officials feared that, without a foreign supplier of HEU, the Iranian government could cite its unmet medical requirements to justify developing its own means of enriching its thousands of pounds of LEU even further, perhaps to weapons grade (typically at least 80%). Russian officials readily agreed to this proposal, but they wanted another country to convert the enriched uranium into nuclear fuel cells. The Americans then secured France’s involvement as well as that of the IAEA. During the past month, the negotiations with Iran have involved such issues as the amount of LEU Iran will transfer, the timing of the shipments, the costs of the conversion, and whether Iran must limit how much LEU it makes to replace the transferred and converted uranium. Supporters of the deal describe it 13 November, 2009
Richard Weitz as a confidence-building measure that would demonstrate the ability of Iran and its negotiating partners to collaborate on a common goal. Although Russia already cooperates with Iran on nuclear matters, France does not. The arrangement would also give foreign observers additional insight into Iran’s nuclear activities. Finally, the conversion would help limit Iran’s growing stocks of LEU, which currently have no obvious civilian purpose given Iran’s lack of a nuclear power program. Western critics of the deal worry that Iranian scientists and technicians could extract the HEU from its metal alloy, and then enrich it further to weaponsgrade levels. They are also concerned that establishing such an arrangement would bestow de facto legitimization on Iran’s enrichment activities, which have repeatedly been prohibited by the U.N. Security Council, and thereby encourage other countries to pursue similar nuclear programs. Iranians fear that Russia or France might keep the uranium rather than return it. They also worry that Israel might attack Iran’s nuclear sites after most of the Iranian LEU had left the country in order to impede Iran from replenishing its stocks. This fear of further proliferation centers on Iran’s Arab neighbors. During the past few years, several Arab governments have announced that they are considering proposals to develop nuclear technologies for peaceful commercial purposes. These governments have affirmed that they would use nuclear power only for meeting their growing demands for electricity production, assisting with water desalination, and promoting
agriculture. They also stress their desire to prepare for the day when their oil and gas supplies become exhausted. Some Arab representatives and commentators, however, have indicated that concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions have also prompted their desire to explore nuclear options. Certain Western analysts have viewed these statements as indications that the Middle East may soon experience a nuclear arms race, especially between Shiite Iran and conservative Sunni states. Although accepting the legitimacy of Iran’s past nuclear enrichment may increase some countries’ interest in developing similar technologies, it is important not to overemphasize the scale of the Arab nuclear programs. Unlike Iran, they have not expressed any intent to pursue the most sensitive elements of the nuclear fuel cycle, such as uranium enrichment or plutonium reprocessing, which could provide the basis for manufacturing nuclear weapons. Running such a national nuclear weapons program is very difficult and expensive. It has taken Iran decades to achieve a limited indigenous capacity for enriching uranium. Fortunately, the Iranian deal can be expanded to discourage further nuclear enrichment activities. If the international arrangement for enriching uranium for Tehran’s medical reactor proves effective, then other countries would be encouraged to participate in similar multinational nuclear service mechanisms. For example, a nuclear fuel repository that would lend LEU fuel to countries having nuclear reactors. After using the fuel, the borrowers would then return the spent fuel to the original supplier. This process would allow them to pursue nuclear technologies for peaceful purposes without risking further nuclear proliferation through the spread of additional uranium enrichment facilities.
Ph.D. - Senior Fellow and Director, Center for Political-Military Analysis Hudson Institute - washington 08
13 November, 2009
In Brief Around The World
Quotes Of The Week
Magazine Round Up
Cutting hands off Over the past few days, all attempts by the Huthis to penetrate the Saudi forces have failed. After intensive shelling of rebel positions on the SaudiYemeni border by the Saudi air forces which gave them a hard lesson, the only solution the rebels could find was to appeal to the Saudi forces to stop their bombing and resort to talks to solve the crisis. Saudi Defense and Aviation Minister Prince Khalid Bin Sultan announced that Saudi forces succeeded in retaking the territories that had been seized by the Houthis, especially the Jebel Issue 1532
Dukhan area. The prince added that Saudi territories were fully cleared of the intruders, but the kingdom would not halt the air strikes before they retreat tens of kilometers inside the Yemeni borders. This declaration comes when several reports have indicated that the insurgents were only a tool to Iran and were used to create a regional mayhem that would serve the political agenda of Iran. But the Saudi deterrence to the Houthi advances managed to control the crisis and prevented it from spreading regionally.
It is notable that the kingdom has helped the Yemeni government in the operation "scorched land" to counter the Houthis on Yemeni soil. However, when the conflict spread to the Saudi territories, the kingdom sought to punish the aggressors to deter attempts to destabilize its security. This endeavor was widely endorsed by Arab, regional and international powers who all asserted the Saudi right to counter who attempted to violate its territories. 11
In Brief - Around The World
Around The World 1 Saudi Arabia Prince Khaled Bin Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz, the Assistant Minister of Defence for Military Affairs, said in a statement after he toured border military positions located close to the border with Yemen that personnel were carrying out instructions of King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz. The instructions that any rebel caught on the Saudi side of the border would be arrested, included stipulations that the kingdom has not, and will not interfere inside Yemeni borders. He said the kingdom has a single red line, which is safeguarding national sovereignty, vowing to "cut off the hand" that may seek to infringe on the national territories. Prince Khaled added all regions along the border have been evacuated of civilians, indicating that a 10-km-wide security belt has been established along the border.
Saudi Arabia said it had captured 250 Yemeni rebels and regained control of a strategic mountain that straddles the border between the two countries after a five-day conflict that left three Saudi soldiers dead. The rebels denied they had lost control of Jabal Dukhan and said the
kingdom's offensive was continuing,
with Yemeni villages the target of heavy
3 Afghanistan Haji Bahlol Bahij, the governor of Panjshir Province called Karzai’s election "illegal “ arguing it was achieved through fraud . He added " The Panjshiris overwhelmingly voted against Mr. Karzai – and there's volatile anger on the street here about the fraud and corruption surrounding his reelection "
2 Syria Syrian President Bashar al-Asad sent an important message that if Turkey was eager to help Syria, it should have good relations with Israel. Al-Asad said that Turkey conducted the process successfully during the period of 8 months, and conveyed an important message to the west by holding indirect peace talks with Israel. 13 November, 2009
4 France Bernard Kouchner, French Foreign Minister commented on Karzai’s election in an interview saying "Karzai is corrupt, OK, but he's our guy." The interview took place just days before Kouchner flew to Kabul to attend President Hamid Karzai's inauguration.
5 Israel Avigdor Lieberman, Israeli foreign minister, expressed his satisfaction with the results of the United Nations General Assembly vote on a report which accuses Israel of committing war crimes in Gaza. Lieberman said, on the whole, Israel is satisfied with the fact that 18 countries supported Israel's stance and 44 abstained 12
In Brief - Around The World
8 South Korea Yu Myung-Hwan, South Korea's foreign minister said that South Korea remains open to dialogue with the North but will continue to enforce sanctions on North Korea for its nuclear tests to "get the North to return to the talks"
He added" North Korea must first take "substantial" disarmament measures and return to stalled disarmament talks"
Radoslav Sikorski, the Foreign Minister of Poland asked USA to station their troops in Poland to protect it from possible Russian aggression. Sikorsk is concerned by extensive military training conducted by Russia and Belarus. He said "the two countries imitated the use of nuclear weapons and staged debarkation of their troops on the Baltic shore of Poland"
6 China Wen Jiabao, China's Premier,, pledged $10 billion in low interest loans to African nations over the next three years and said Beijing would cancel the government debts of some of the poorest of those countries, as the Asian powerhouse looked to deflect criticism that its investments in the continent were motivated purely by greed. Issue 1532
7 India Gen. Deepak Kapoor, the Indian Chief of Staff expressed his country's willingness to deepen defense ties with Israel. Kapoor emphasized that India is interested in working with Israel on submarine-launched cruise missiles, ballistic missile defense systems, laser-guided systems, satellites as well as unmanned aerial vehicles
10 Iran Alaeddin Boroujerdi, Senior Iranian lawmaker warned Russia that its delay in delivering an antiaircraft missile defense system to Tehran could harm relations between the two countries. 13
In Brief - Quotes Of The Week
Magazine Round Up
Quotes Of The Week
"We are not going to stop the bombing until they retreat tens of kilometers inside the Yemeni border" Saudi Deputy Defence Minister Prince Khaled Bin Sultan
"Germanyâ€™s unity is not yet complete" Angela Merkel on Berlin Wall anniversary
"I say to Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Palestinian Authority: Let us seize the moment to reach an historic agreement. Let us begin talks immediately." Netanyahu in a speech to the Jewish Federations of North America
"We cannot go to negotiations without full stop to settlements, without that, I won't accept. I won't accept" Mahmoud Abbas,the Palestinian president in a reply to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's calls to begin talks without any conditions. 13 November, 2009
Magazine Round Up 1 Newsweek The year the world really changed This article compares the events of 1989 to those of 10 years earlier in 1979. The article suggests that 1979 has a better claim to being truly historic. The Soviets began their policy of self-destruction by invading Afghanistan. The British started the revival of free-market economics in the West by electing Margaret Thatcher. Deng Xiaoping set China on a new economic course by visiting the United States and seeing for himself what the free market can achieve. And Iranian citizens overthrew the shah and proclaim an Islamic Republic. These events have had far more profound consequences for the world than the events of 1989. 14
3 Time The State of Hilary
2 2 The New Yorker Letter from Cairo, “The Pharaoh”
This letter is about archeologist Zahi Hawass, the secretary-general of that country’s Supreme Council of Antiquities (S.C.A.). Hawass is apparently the international star of Egyptology, thanks to a steady flow of television documentaries and books to which he is attached. Hawass is so often found in the middle of some argument in the heart of archeology, national politics, controversy is inevitable. The writer visits Hawass in his office in downtown Cairo and talk to him about his work and Egyptology in general.
The cover story of Time's new edition provides an analysis of the American Secretary of State's conduct who's been in office for 9 months. The article reflects on Clinton's policies when dealing with numerous Middle Eastern conflicts, taking reference from her past political incidences and records. The article also discusses Clinton's vices that have been taken advantage of in her new post. The article however sees the Secretary of State more of a public diplomat than a negotiator, thus advising Clinton to expand her role and provide substantial support to Obama.
4 4 Reason Iranian Revolution Grows on the Web
This article tackles the Iranian people's usage of Internet as means to fight corruption and apply reform in their country. The article stresses that the period following the last Iranian elections witnessed a significant amount of online hearsay which expressed unhappiness against what Reason called fraudulent elections. The article handles twitter as the new method by which people gather and make themselves heard by the regime. The article mentions that Iranians have reached their maximum levels of discontented and hence have started lobbying by all means possible to form an online upheaval against their government.
Cover Of The Week
Cover of the Week Prospect Eleven days in December
In the course of 11 days this December, the leaders of the world must agree on their self-appointed task of saving it. Seventeen years after acknowledging the threat of global warming, the ice is melting, the waters are drying or rising while the world’s population is growing. The question persists what can 11 days in Copenhagen do about it? The aim is to conclude a new global political agreement on how to stop the damage. Issue 1532
In Brief - Letters
The Mysterious Doctor This article provides us with insightful information about Abdullah Abdullah, the "false" candidate for Afghanistan presidential office. The article reveals many facts about this man who has always been part of the Tajik alliances in Afghanistan. I think Abdullah's withdrawal presents the possibility of foreign countries being asked to put more troops at risk to secure an election in which the winner is already known. Saleh Taher, Egypt
Containing a regional crisis It is a wonderful article. I fully agree with the writer. Indeed, Houthis represent a threat for the Saudi Arabia and Yemen. I think the government of Saudi Arabia should face this threat very fiercely. There should be a kind of military cooperation between the two countries in order to face this danger. However, this alliance should be cautious in order to avoid more victims at the sides of both countries. Tareq Al-Semari, Qatar 13 November, 2009
Who Rules Pakistan? It is a very interesting article about Pakistan. I fully agree with the writer that the only institution that has succeeded to some extent in resisting kinship loyalties in the name of state loyalty is the army. However, the army has always been an obstacle in the way of a stable civilian government. Zuhair Ghali- Lebanon
The Pakistani army throughout its 54 years of existence has been involved in the administration of the country. No institution dominates this country like its army. Every one of Pakistan's democratically-elected civilian leaders has been forced to abdicate by the army. Farag Awad - Egypt 16
In Brief - Magazine Round Up
13 November, 2009
By Caryle Murphy Issue 1532
Arab Facebook The Internetâ€™s role in Politics in the Middle East The virtual world offers new opportunities for political expression and communication. Why political discussion has migrated to the Internet is obvious. In almost every Arab country, a tight state grip on the media, books and films severely limits freedom of expression. But what impact is this free-wheeling political discussion and debate in digital space having on real life politics? How is the Internet changing actual politics?
13 November, 2009
Features Saudi Arabia’s Information Minister put his profile on Facebook and got more than 5,000 “friends.” And when the king fired a senior cleric for criticizing co-education at a new Saudi university, the cleric’s supporters struck back in cyberspace. Hacking into the website of Al Watan-a champion of the king’s move-they posted the cleric’s picture on the paper’s home page. Saudi Arabia is increasingly wired, but so is the rest of the Middle East. In Egypt, potential presidential contender Gamal Mubarak answered questions in an online interview as part of an Internet-based outreach to voters. And Iran’s post-election protests last summer acquired a global audience through 140-word “tweets.” As these scenes demonstrate, the virtual world is offering new opportunities for political expression and communication. Across the region, legions of bloggers are mouthing off as never before. And ordinary folk are having their say in chat rooms, forums and online newspaper sites. Why political discussion has migrated to the Internet is obvious. In almost every Middle East country, a tight state grip on the media, books and films severely limits freedom of expression. Digital space offers an affordable, accessible, and, if desired, anonymous, soapbox far freer than its terrestrial counterparts. So moving there is a no-brainer, as natural as water running downhill. But the question that political scientists are still pondering is this: What impact is this free-wheeling political discussion and debate in digital space having on real life politics? How is the Internet changing actual politics?
and its twin power tool of web-linked, SMS-enabled mobile phones--have played crucial roles in moments of high political drama. Lebanon’s 2005 Cedar Revolution, Egypt’s Kifaya movement and Kuwait’s successful campaign to grant women the vote all tapped the Internet’s powers of mobilization and information dissemination. But it was last summer’s huge street protests against election results in Iran--the so-called ‘Twitter Revolution’--that underscored the Internet’s ability to virally connect people around the world. With the foreign press forced to leave Iran and local television and radio under state control, images and news about the violent suppression of the protests was broadcast abroad through emails, YouTube videos and blogging. But it was Twitter that offered instantaneous immediacy to the protests by creating the illusion of “being there.” As such, it created a virtual global community emotionally linked to the same event. How Much Impact
Still, a decade after the Internet’s arrival in the Middle East, political structures in most Arab countries have not changed much, leading some to conclude that the new medium has had only minor impact. “While the media scene has changed, and once forbidden views are accessible, the greater amount of information hasn’t really translated into the political process because the formal political institutions have not changed,” observes Rami G. Khouri, editorat-large of Beirut’s Daily Star, and director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut.
When the Internet began arriving in the Middle East in the late 1990s, some had high expectations that it would usher in a more democratic Arab world. Certainly the Internet--
“You can get information,” Khouri adds, “but you can’t do anything with it. You can’t change the government….so the ultimate impact is quite minimal.”
Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut agrees. “From Morocco all the way to Yemen [the Internet] has had an impact on the way, particularly young, people do politics and mobilize. It’s definitely part of the new landscape,” he said. But as for influencing the macro political scene, he added, “it’s hard to judge.” Helmi Noman, a researcher with OpenNet Initiative, a collaborative partnership of several universities that monitors Internet censorship and surveillance, put it this way: “The Internet has democratized access to information, but it has not democratized a regime in the Arab world.” There are many reasons for this. Unlike television and newspapers, the Internet requires active effort from users. “You have to go and get the information,” noted Khouri. “You have to also have access to it.” Indeed, less than a quarter of the Arab world’s population (23.7%) uses the Internet, according to Internet World Stats, a market research company that compiles online data. Some Arab countries have lower rates of usage, such as Egypt with 15.4% and others are higher, such as Qatar with 52%. (In North America, users are 74% of the population and in Israel, 73%.) In Syria, where about 16% of the population are users, “there are populated parts of the country with no access to broadband,” observed Jillian C. York, project coordinator for OpenNet Initiative. This is changing fast, however, as more people come online. Internet World Stats found that users in the Middle East increased by more than 1,300% between 2000 and 2009. Government Control Spreads But just as rapidly as Internet use is spreading, governments are scrambling to control it. According to 21
Features OpenNet Initiative, the Middle East “is one of most heavily censored regions in world” with Internet censorship “on the rise” as governments increase the “the scope and depth” of their filtering, or blocking, of websites. “More users in the Middle East and North Africa are using the Internet for political campaigning and social activism,” says the Initiative’s latest regional report. “[H]owever, states continue to introduce more restrictive legal, technical and monitoring measures.” Saudi Arabia, where more than a quarter of its population now uses the Internet, is one of the most aggressive at blocking websites, targeting pornography but also selected sites relating to religion, politics and human rights. But, as ever, the Saudis are polite. Users attempting to visit a blocked website get this message: “Sorry, the requested page is unavailable. If you believe [it] should not be blocked, please click here.” Not an invitation many are likely to take up. At the other end of the spectrum, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Algeria and the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories do not filter out any political websites, according to OpenNet Initiative. But it is commonly assumed that these countries assign scores of security police to monitor sites people are reading. Police also monitor Internet cafes, probably a necessity in these security-conscious times but also intimidating to potential users. Jordan, for example, installed cameras in its cyber cafes, and the Saudi Interior Ministry issued a similar order in April, along with instructions to owners to record customers’ names, according to OpenNet Initiative. The paradox, wrote the Initiative’s Noman, is that “the Internet has to various degrees given Arab political activists unprecedented access to information [but] has, at the same time, exposed the activists and their activities to the authorities.” 13 November, 2009
Governments are also trying to control cyberspace as if it were part of their sovereign territory by extending existing press laws to website content. And there has also been talk in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia--so far unenforced-of requiring websites to be licensed by the state. The region presents “a contradiction,”
Terrorists were among the first to demonstrate the Internet’s capacity to be the loudest silent megaphone ever devised. Beheadings and kidnappings in Iraq were first announced there said the Initiative’s York. “All these countries are trying to catch up [and spread] computer literacy,” in some cases promising to put “a computer in very home,” she noted. At the same time, “there are severe restrictions on access to information….You have information starvation.” Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, one of OpenNet Initiative’s partners, offered some reasons why initial political expectations for the Internet have not materialized. The “emergence of the Internet and digital technologies does not in itself constitute a one-way road towards political liberalization,” stated the Center’s June report on the Arabic blogosphere. “The ideas and debates of the blogosphere are not effectively open to all. Many have no access to the Internet, and linguistic obstacles prevent most from easily tapping into the full range of ideas available online,” it said. “Furthermore, effective engagement in the field of ideas requires technical skills and media savvy, which are not uniform
even among those with regular access to the Internet. Moreover, governments have acted to limit the influence of this digitally-mediated public sphere.” Diversity in Use And yet, it is clear that what the Berkman Center calls “an emerging networked public sphere” made up of “multiple genres” of sites, including blogs, forums, chat rooms, video sharing and photo sharing, is affecting the citizens and governments of the Middle East in a variety of ways. For one, it has “opened up the communication process to absolutely everybody,” said Khouri, providing a platform for otherwise unheard voices, such as gay and lesbian groups. It also is magnifying some very menacing voices. Terrorists were among the first to demonstrate the Internet’s capacity to be the loudest silent megaphone ever devised. Beheadings and kidnappings in Iraq were first announced there. Recruitment videos for extremist groups can be viewed in even the remotest of villages. And online forums allow jihadis to communicate with each other, bolster morale, and spread their ideas. Increasingly too, people are turning to the Internet for education and news. [Among bloggers, Al Jazeera is the top mainstream media source, followed by BBC and Al Arabyia, according to the Berkman Center.] When a violent terrorist campaign hit Saudi Arabia in 2003, many Saudis, aware of the official limits on local newspapers, surfed the Internet to learn more about what was happening in their own country. It also is increasingly popular for social networking, especially for women whose physical mobility is circumscribed by finances and conservative social conventions. And it is an essential ingredient in shaping public opinion, exposing people to different points of view and new possibilities. Arabs, for example, can now read Israeli newspapers online. Finally, there are the bloggers. The 22
13 November, 2009
Features Berkman Center’s survey of the Arabic blogosphere found over 35,000 Arabic language blogs. The largest group is in Egypt, where thousands of politically attuned bloggers range across the political spectrum. Their influence was underscored in 2006 when several bloggers posted a video showing a man being sodomized with a stick by policemen. Such abuse occurs regularly in Egyptian police stations, but the mainstream media usually avoids reporting on it. The immediacy of the blog videos, however, were hard to ignore. A year later, the policemen were sentenced to three years in prison. Saudis are very active in the Arabic blogosphere, and almost half -46 %are women, according to the Berkman Center. Many of these female bloggers focus on their personal lives, but others are issue-oriented, with some regularly pointing out, for example, the ban on women drivers and rising trends in domestic violence. And Reem Asaad, a Jeddah-based lecturer in finance who launched an online campaign to replace male clerks in lingerie stores with women, says at her (bright pink) blog, www. reemasaad.blogspot.com, that her aim is “to raise and promote socioeconomic awareness in Saudi Arabia.” Ahmed Omran, who blogs in English about Saudi Arabia, has noted a change that suggests growing acceptance of blogging by both society and the government. “The interesting thing,” he said, “is that over the past two years, more and more people are using their real names in forums and blogs.” Whether or not decision-makers are being influenced by what they see on the Internet is hard to tell. But it is at least exposing their failings. Gamal Mubarak got an earful of complaints about Egypt’s high rates of inflation, unemployment and corruption when he invited the public to ask him questions online at www.sharek.eg (Participate). Issue 1532
And the Internet’s high visibility does cause second thoughts. One Arab media executive who asked not to be identified said it’s not unusual to hear this refrain in staff meetings: “I can’t do that. We don’t want another YouTube clip.” It seems, the executive added, that “a YouTube clip can haunt you now.” But politicians are starting to realize
Saudis are very active in the Arabic blogosphere, and almost half -46 %- are women, according to the Berkman Center. Many of these female bloggers focus on their personal lives, but others are issueoriented that this visibility can also be an asset. Gamal Mubarak’s online interview, for example, was part of the ruling National Democratic Party’ effort to harness the Internet’s hold on the young. And scores of groups have blossomed on Facebook both supporting and opposing the question of the day in Egypt: Will Mubarak make a bid to succeed his Dad as president? Sowing the Seeds of Transformation Some experts say that given all these different online experiences, the impact of the Internet should be viewed more like a volcano in slow motion, one that will eventually reshape Middle East politics. Their argument is that the Internet’s greatest influence is on how individuals’ real lives are being altered by their online activities and that, eventually, these millions of individual transformations will affect society. Deborah L. Wheeler, a professor of political science at the U.S. Naval Academy, has spent more than a
decade interviewing Arabs who use the Internet mostly for non-political activities. “These citizens’ Internet practices are seemingly benign in the state’s eyes,” Wheeler wrote in a 2006 research paper. “But if one looks closely, they just might contain the slow growing seeds of significant transformations by shaping the masses into more information aware global netizens.” She found that online activities, from reading news to entering chat rooms, helps make “people more open minded, more confident, better informed [and] more secure in their opinions.” Expanded Internet access, she also noted, has coincided with “unprecedented public outspokenness in politics,” suggesting “that the two are mutually reinforcing.” She concluded that “global pressure to join the knowledge economy means that states in the region can no longer afford to keep their publics digitally muzzled and blindfolded….Just as in the past it has proven difficult to liberalize economically without democratizing, in the same way, it is hard to sustain freedoms to be creative and entrepreneurial digitally speaking, while at the same time, keeping these same concepts and tools from being used to re-engineer political and social life, from the family, to the community, to the state.” In short, we may be looking for big results too soon. The Middle East is only at the beginning of the digital revolution, which has much more in store for all of us in terms of cyberspace experiences. But the changes that the Internet has already brought to the region in terms of social awareness, information access and grass-roots engagement all suggest that eventually and inevitably it also will usher in a new political world.
Caryle Murphy - Pulitzer Prize Winner in Journalism in 1991, is an independent journalist based in Riyadh and a regular contributor to the Majalla. She is the author of “Passion for Islam” 25
Debate A Double Edged Sword
Is the Internet a Political Supplement or an Alternative? Recently, digital realms have become intertwined with reality in a way that has undoubtedly affected the dynamics of everyday life. One of the most crucial interaction points is the political arena, where the internet has become a tool for everyone, be they political leaders or their constituency. Accordingly, the internet has become refuge for those who are deprived from the freedom of expression. Nevertheless, in spite of the internetâ€™s obvious role in intellectual and political liberalization, it is seen as a reason for rising political passiveness in reality, as it constitutes a virtual alternative to reality. This issue discusses the effect of the internet in politics, tackling its advantages and disadvantages.
How Facebook is Becoming Part of Everyday Egyptian Life
Stagnant water moved by an electronic political war The internet - this wide virtual world â€“ is no longer just a platform for chatting, finding new friends, or communicating with one another. Social networking sites, the top of which is, of course, Facebook, have turned it into a battlefield. The war on this battlefield is led by groups belonging to various political and intellectual trends. The Internet has become a target of political parties and forces that have failed to make an influential presence in the real world and thus resorted to the virtual one.
n fact, resorting to the Internet was not an original approach on the part of these parties and forces as much as it was a pragmatic one. It was a reaction to the success of youth groups on the Internet, who managed to make themselves an undeclared partner in the system of political activity. They became an equal rival to the government and the ruling party. These parties wanted to attract new youth groups that are reluctant to engage in any political activity as a result of their fear of security forces or their despair of making any significant change. The real starting point was the success of the April 6 Youth Movement. During their first strike on 6th April 2008, the Group's members on Facebook reached 73000. In the face of such a large number the government found itself powerless to act. This success forced the planners of major parties, especially the ruling National Party to quickly establish their own youth groups on the Internet to counter the rising threat. In contrast, the number of groups attacking the ruling party and its government increased. They accused the party of monopolizing power, depending on businessmen as a source of legitimacy, and pushing Mr. Gamal Mubarak, the party's secretary of policies, to become the next presidential candidate, if President Mubarak decides not to nominate himself in the next presidential elections. For his part, Mr. Gamal Mubarak created his own website under the name "Participate". His objective was to attract the largest number of youth groups around him, through holding meetings and direct dialogues with them. His first meeting was with the youth of Facebook on August 12, 2009, which 12 thousand participants watched it broadcast live on the internet. On 25 October, he held his second meeting with a group of small and medium businesses owners and a number of university student leaders. But the meeting did not achieve its desired goal in comparison to the previous one. It was held only a few days before the party's annual conference. Also, the solutions proposed at that meeting were difficult to implement. They depended 13 November, 2009
on the concerted efforts of the whole community. Of course, this activity did not pass unnoticed by the opposition, or its affiliates. Ten days just after the first meeting of Gamal Mubarak, Mohammed Abdul Quddus, the head of the Freedoms Committee at the Press Syndicate, created a youth website under the name "Let's make a change". The sites message was to make a comprehensive change in the future of Egypt through the participation of young people.
the neglect of Facebook and other social networks by the Brotherhood planners. The Brotherhood comprises thousands of qualified cadres that are capable of changing the map of Facebook. They would "disturb" the government if they took a decision to participate. However, there might be a security reason known only to the leaders of the Brotherhood, or perhaps they are trying to avoid escalating the dispute with the government at this time.
This raging electronic war helped in moving the stagnant waters in political life. It demonstrated the need for traditional political institutions to reinvent themselves. It opened new doors that were not available before. In addition, it proved that the youth had the capacity to make a difference, if they were provided with the right environment and the right field leadership in the streetâ€Ś
Such were the most important features of the environment which has become the new political battlefield. Political life has shifted from the real world into a kind of virtual reality. The precise impact of this virtual world on the future of the political process in Egypt can not be accurately determined. However, it is expected to have a limited influence on the parliamentary elections of 2010, and the presidential elections of 2011. There are several factors behind this limited impact. There is a continued reliance on clan, tribal and narrow loyalties as a way of obtaining votes. Most Egyptian villages do not have Internet access. In addition, the ruling National Democratic Party has become aware of the importance of the internet and is not willing to leave it for the flocks of opposition groups to use it alone.
There were three kinds of political parties in this war. The first kind has the necessary financial and human resources that enable it to work effectively on Facebook, but it lacks the cadres who believe in the importance of such a role. The National Democratic Party is one such party. However, it has recently begun to pay attention to all social networks, and not just Facebook. The second kind has human resources and a clear ideology, such as Al-Tagammu Party. Yet, its leaders believe that such a role is unimportant and useless. Political field work can only be done in the street through mass struggle. The third kind does not have the necessary resources and the willingness to play such a role. Most political parties fall under this category. But despite this wide political activity of Facebook groups, the Muslim Brotherhood cadres are absent. They do not play any significant role, except for supporting the activity of certain opposition groups such as that of April 6, based on pre-direction of the guidance office of brotherhood movement. The Brotherhood youth focused on Blogs. They became active through these Blogs by interacting with the facts of the Egyptian political life and by criticizing non-democratic practices inside the Brotherhood. There is no clear reason for
But all the evidence reveal that this situation will change in the parliamentary elections of 2015 and all the following election due to the growing role played by modern means of communication in politics; the growing impact of talk shows; electronic opposition groups; and the possibility of electronic opposition groups improving their coordination with human rights organizations and foreign agencies interested in supporting the democratic process in Egypt. In addition, when the National Party enters this field, this will push the opposition forces to confront and seek to neutralize it. The opposition will try to gain the support of reluctant youth groups, especially because such groups have no excuses to justify their weak field activity, as the government can not use its security iron hand over the internet.
Specialist in Youth Studies and Human Rights 28
13 November, 2009
The Political Internet
The Politics of E-Politics
The role of the political Internet has expanded unprecedentedly at the expense of real politics to become an instrument of control
ccording to statistics on trends in Internet, we can say that the political field is the least affected by the rising numbers of Internet users in the Arab World. This conclusion has been reached by research of Websites such as “Alexa”, whose methodology involve the thorough examination of content and the size of data transfers on the internet. This outcome seems correct if we understand politics as a systematic structure concerned with direct content. This content usually includes opposition websites and counter-arguments to the government discourse. This fact is due not only to government control and filtering of the banks of digital data flowing to the public, but also to both the weakness of responsible content and the fact that the broader segment of Internet users, the youth, is more focused on entertainment content and social networking. However, a not less valid explanation would be that politics on the Internet is amorphous, often existing as the promotion of public events where the religious mixes with the political. The social field also intersects closely with these factors through the status of political freedoms and the absence or dire weakness of political parties. These aspects in turn have brought to a number of public life fields a severe political formula. The politicization of the Internet is an Arab phenomenon bound to increase if one takes into account Issue 1532
Yussef Al-Dini the daily rise in the number of network users (Internet users in the Arab world represent 15% of the population, 60% of them are in the Gulf region, with Egypt at the top with more than five million users).
The future of political Internet with regard to the Arab countries is not promising if one takes into account the strict control over moderate opposition discourse or even over that which exceeds the norms.
This entails the development of a political discourse - whether in its public or hidden form by groups operating outside the bureaucracy and politics.
If we look at numbers - which are commonly known not to lie - we find that, with the exception of government sites, official newspapers, and personal websites such as blogs, more than two-thirds of the politically active sites on the web contain radical content. These sites often support either political violence groups such as Al Qaeda and their brethren, or belong to a kind of discourse that lost its appeal in reality.
Therefore, the political Internet will not be subject to pluralism’s classic rules of normal relations between political forces. The role of the political Internet has expanded unprecedentedly at the expense of real politics to become an instrument of control . Hence, the firms dominating the Internet have turned into negotiation partners of governments in an effort to maintain these country’s sovereignty without threatening their own profits. If we look beyond the political confusion in the Arabic Internet discourse, and if we consider culture in terms of identity and civilization, there is certainly a global cultural discourse with a striking similarity that is being formed on the internet. This was expressed with a note of optimism by the legitimate father of the Internet (Tim BernersLee) in a paper submitted to the International Information Summit in Geneva. Despite the cultural specificity that he underscores, he shows us how much we are similar to each other.
This discourse – as in the case of political Islam groups, the Baath, and, to a lesser extent, leftist discourse– finds a safe haven under the digital shadow. This is due to the high cost of creating an un-individual Internet content, in addition to lack of coordination and collaboration. This internet content usually assumes an institutional umbrella to which it belongs. This institutional umbrella on the internet, is a mobilizing means to achieve impressive results, a priority that should not be overlooked. This may help explaining what Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Al-Qaeda’s number two, meant when he addressed his followers saying, "Half of our real battle is on the Internet". Researcher in Political Science 31
13 November, 2009
Like Oil and Water Politics in the Hajj By Paula Mejia
Like Oil and Water Politics in the Hajj Paula Mejia
The polemic issue of whether politics has a place in the Hajj has plagued diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia since the late 70s and early 80â€™s. The debate appears to have been reignited. Why has Iran chosen this year to disrupt the Hajj? The opportunity for political propaganda during the Hajj is clearly one that Iran does not want to miss, although it should. While Iran is not the first country to exploit religion for political purposes, past crises during the Hajj indicate that bringing politics into a religious ritual can have grave consequences not only for international relations, but for the people it manipulates during the event itself
he summer of 1987 marked an important event in the history of Saudi-Iranian Relations. But most importantly, it demonstrated once again that religious rituals and politics donâ€™t mix. That year, tensions rose as Tehran insisted that its pilgrims had the religious right and obligation to engage in political demonstrations during their trip to Mecca. Riyadh, on 13 November, 2009
the other hand, adamantly disagreed, arguing that such behaviour violated the spiritual significance of the Hajj. The pent-up hostility proved uncontrollable when Saudi security forces suppressed an unauthorized demonstration in front of the Grand Mosque. This confrontation led to the death of over 400 pilgrims, comprised predominantly of
Iranians. In Tehran, mobs responded by ransacking the Saudi Embassy, culminating in the death of a Saudi diplomat. The diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran have been everything but smooth. While the differences between these two rival hegemons in the region may be expected, what is more shocking 34
Ideas is that it was a religious rite, an expression of a common identity, that has proved to be disruptive and dangerous. Some Things Never Change The largest annual pilgrimage in the world, the Hajj, brings over three million people to Mecca each year. There, the pilgrims circle, counter clockwise, seven times around the Kabah, in demonstration of the unity of the Islamic people. The sheer number of people at any given Hajj is unimaginable, but more impressive is the ability of conducting such a pilgrimage without disruptions - a feat made increasingly more complicated by Iranian tendencies to politicize the event. The polemic issue of whether politics has a place in the Hajj has plagued diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia since the late 70s and early 80’s, with few years of respite since. The 1987 incident caused significant damage to the diplomatic relations between these two powers, although various events have since warmed their relations, albeit to a limited degree. The War in the Persian Gulf, for one, altered Saudi perceptions, and the contentious issue of the Hajj was resolved through a compromise that enabled Iranians to participate in the 1991 pilgrimage, their first participation in four years. However, the Iranian-Saudi debate over the place of politics in the Hajj appears to have been reignited, as became increasingly clear through a series of exchanges between Saudi and Iranian leaders in late October. Saudi Hajj Minister Fouad al-Farsi told Iran not to politicize the Hajj after Tehran leaders said Iranians could experience mistreatment during the annual pilgrimage. President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and Supreme Leader Khamenei warned that Saudi Arabia, a predominantly Sunni Muslim country, might abuse the mainly Shiite Muslim pilgrimage from Iran. They declared that Iran would take appropriate measures if Saudi Arabia were to impose restrictions on Iranian pilgrims. Ahmedinejad further stated that the Hajj was an extraordinary opportunity for defending Islamic values and if Muslims come together, the Iranian pilgrims especially, they will thwart any enemy conspiracies and increase the unity of Muslims. Behind Iran’s discourse concerning Issue 1532
the rights of its pilgrims during the Hajj, is a clear message of Iran’s intentions. What is more problematic, however, is that Iran is framing political differences in a religious, or sectarian framework. A recipe that could prove deadly for those at this year’s Hajj.
What is more problematic, however, is that Iran is framing political differences in a religious, or sectarian framework. A recipe that could prove deadly for those at this year’s Hajj The debate surrounding the role of politics in the Hajj is indicative of a larger trend within Islam. It demonstrates the growing political undertones in all Islamic practices. That is, political Islamic movements have managed to politicize Islam for everyone, from the hijab to the Hajj - a fact that renders spiritual events politically contentious for the region as a whole. A Tendency Towards the Political The question that this debate over the place of politics in the Hajj sets forth is: why have other countries not pursued political messages during the ritual? After all, Iran is not the only country whose political world is intertwined with its religious establishment. On the contrary, politics in much of the Arab world is influenced by Islam. The Hajj is a momentous event in the Muslim world and the number of people present would render it an occasion for political propaganda. Even Nasser during the Cold War, who had particularly difficult relations with Saudi Arabia, did not bring politics to this event. Iran is the only country that has pursued this policy. Why? Iran’s new claims for politicizing the Hajj come at a particular juncture in the government’s own political trajectory, on both a national and international level. The last two most public displays of Ahmedinejad’s politics came during the contentious summer elections and most recently during the negotiations addressing Iran’s intentions for its nuclear programme - both of which indicate growing instability for his regime. This is particularly problematic for a country whose foreign policy identity relies on the idea of
establishing itself as the rebellious, yet religiously and politically influential, underdog. In other words, part of Iran’s political strategy in the past has been to rely on this historical martyrdom associated to Shiism. It has taken this image, and turned it on its head, converting it into the image of a revolutionary, anti-western force in the Middle East. A model of Islamic revivalism, it would argue. As such, the division between Saudi Arabia and Iran is just but one dimension of how sectarian conflict impacts and is influenced by foreign policy in the Gulf. That is, the development of Islamic awakening in the Arab world has taken different forms in countries dominated by the two main sects in Islam. It is also evidence of how particularly conservative movements in those countries, Salafism and Twelver Shiism, have impacted relations between the two countries. Thus, the question of the Hajj becomes particularly cantankerous as Saudi Arabia and Iran struggle for hegemony in the region, on a political and religious basis. This multifaceted struggle for power brings to light why Iran would choose this year, this Hajj, to reignite the debate over the place of politics in the pilgrimage. Having begrudgingly collaborated with the West, Iran’s regular anti-Western, stomp-my-foot-Iran-deservesnuclear-arms tantrum, has been put in question. It has put in question the renegade essence behind its influence in the region. For Iran, politicizing the possibility of having over 150,000 pilgrims changing “Death to America” might perhaps undo some of the damage that its rebellious reputation has undergone in the last months. The opportunity for political propaganda during the Hajj is clearly one that Iran does not want to miss, although it should. While Iran is not the first, and will unlikely be the last, country to exploit religion for political purposes, past crises during the Hajj indicate that bringing politics into a religious ritual can have grave consequences not only for international relations, but for the people it manipulates during the event itself. Should Iran choose to politicize this Hajj, it would undoubtedly open a Pandora’s Box in the Gulf that might have significant impact on already tense sectarian and international relations. 35
13 November, 2009
Whatâ€™s in a name?
People - Profile
What’s in a name?
Revolutionizing Arab use of the Internet in the case of Samih Toukan
The story of Toukan’s impact on the use of Internet technology does not begin or end with the acquisition of Maktoob by Yahoo. Instead it begins with Samih Toukan’s trajectory to becoming the CEO of Jabbar Internet Group, the company that comprises his remaining online businesses. The range of products that Jabbar is comprised of speak to the foresight that Mr. Toukan, has with regards to the potential impact of the Internet for the Middle East.
13 November, 2009
People - Profile
n the computer industry, a name can conjure images of entrepreneurial success, but above all, some names are filled with intrigue. For those of us less adept to technology, names like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zukerberg are names that interest us for the achievements they represent, probably as a result of the very real impact they have had on the way we live our daily lives. For who can say that a Mac product, Internet Explorer, or Facebook have not been present in their daily routine in some way or another? Yet, there is one more name on the list of great names in the computer industry that is synonymous with the appeal of accomplishment. That name is Samih Toukan. In 1999 Samih Toukan and his business partner Hussam Khoury, came up with the idea of a company that would revolutionize the use of the Internet in the Arab world, truly marking the end of one millennium and the beginning of the next. This company, Maktoob, was the first Arabic web-based e-mail solution on the Internet. Maktoob, which means “letter” or “written” in Arabic, was developed at a time when the Internet was still in its infancy in most of the Arab world, and its users tended to have good command of the English language. There was, as a result, little demand for Arabic language services. Toukan, however, realized that if the Internet was going to be used more extensively in the Middle East, then an Arabic language e-mail solution would surely be necessary. This insight, which may appear obvious now that the entire world is connected to the Internet, was less obvious in the late 90s. But entrepreneurial instinct and faith in what the Internet could become motivated the creation of Maktoob; the very first product of its kind. As the company grew to become a full fledged portal, its over 16 million unique monthly visitors speak to the impact that this one company had on the use of the Internet in the Arab world. So impressive was it’s potential and achievements that in August 2009 Maktoob was sold to Yahoo for over 100 million dollars. The story of Toukan’s impact on the use of Internet technology does not begin or end with the acquisition of Maktoob by Yahoo. Instead it begins with Samih Issue 1532
Toukan’s trajectory to becoming the CEO of Jabbar Internet Group, the company that comprises his remaining online businesses, including souq. com (an auction and marketplace site), cashU.com (an online payment site), ikoo.com (online advertising), tahidi. com (online game site) and Araby.com (an Arabic search engine). The range of products that Jabbar is comprised of speak to Mr. Toukan’s foresight with regards to the potential impact of the Internet for the Middle East.
Samih Toukan and his business partner Hussam Khoury, came up with the idea of a company that would revolutionize the use of the Internet in the Arab world, truly marking the end of one millennium and the beginning of the next. This company, Maktoob, was the first Arabic web-based e-mail solution on the Internet In a short interview with Mr. Toukan, his optimism about the future of the Internet in the Arab world seemed to motivate much of the work he now does with the Jabbar Internet Group. “Internet penetration is growing at healthy rates and is now reaching more than 50 million people in the Arab World. It is also having huge social implications as more and more people use the Internet”. Mr. Toukan also noted that in increasing access to information and communication a tangible positive impact on the social and economic potential of the Middle East could be harnessed. Having grown up in a family of lawyers and economists, it is difficult to say what might have pushed a young Samih Toukan in the direction of electrical engineering when he attended university. He would probably argue that it was an innate interest, recalling that even as a child, electronics and computing had enchanted him in a way other things could not. “One of my main hobbies when I was young was computer programming, and I remember Arabizing the Sinclair personal computer”. Not many children consider computer programming a hobby, nor can one
imagine that many of Toukan’s peers tried, let alone succeeded, to Aarbize one of the first commercial PCs at a young age. It appears that there is something inherent in Samih Toukan that would destine him to not only be a part of the technology that intrigued him so, but to be part of a movement that would make this technology more accessible in the Arab world. Having graduated from university with a degree in electrical engineering, Mr. Toukan first completed an MBA, and complemented these studies with extensive experience in consulting and system integration. The combination of his instinct, undeniable interest in all things technological, and significant experience appear to have written the pages of the story that he is now best known for: revolutionizing Internet technology in the Middle East by creating companies like Maktoob and Jabbar. Now, as the CEO of the Jabbar Internet Group, he claims his role will be different than as CEO of Maktoob. Jabbar, with businesses that range from auctions, to online payment, online advertising, online games, and search engines, functions as an investment company as well as a business “incubator”. Where as in Maktoob, Toukan was managing business from every angle, in Jabbar his position is meant to “build groundbreaking new companies and support their CEOs and entrepreneurs to achieve astonishing work”. With an eye for business, and an instinct for technology that Mr. Toukan has already made apparent, it is easy to imagine that he will be able to achieve these goals and perhaps much more. Even he recognizes that the future of Internet technology in the Middle East is just beginning.“ The Maktoob-Yahoo deal was a turning point. It is energising entrepreneurs to create new products and services and to be more innovative. It is energizing investors to invest more in the field.” A humble analysis of his personal impact on this new movement in the entrepreneurial and technological fields in the Middle East, Mr. Toukan does not say what is on every one’s mind: that his initiative and foresight are largely responsible for the positive changes that are much more accessible now than they were before companies like Maktoob and Jabbar came to the Arab World. 39
People - Interview
The Insights of an Old-time Veteran
Abdulkareem Al-Eryani – Former Prime Minister of Yemen
Abdulkareem Al-Eryani has played a critical role in Yemen’s history for decades. A scientist and agriculture expert turned politician, he has held several top ministerial positions both in the divided Yemen and the united one, including two terms as prime minister and two more as foreign minister. Today he is one of the top advisors of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. As a statesman with a long history in Arab affairs, his reputation as champion of democracy and of incorruptibility precedes him, even if these traits have not always been well received. He spoke with The Majalla in the sidelines of a conference on an uncensored dissecting of the most pressing issues facing Yemen, from two armed rebellions, economic hardship, terrorist threats, corruption, unemployment and poverty.
The Majalla: What are the most serious challenges Yemen face and will face in the future? There are long and short-term problems. In the long term, I think the economy is really the most important problem that has to be courageously tackled; secondly, the question of population growth is alarmingly high and is leading to very high unemployment; thirdly, Yemen is a very poor country in water resources; fourthly, the quality of education has to be significantly improved if Yemen is to meet the challenges of the 21st century. The most pressing short-term problems relate to questions surrounding political revolution, security, and conflict – whether in the north or in the south. 40
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These are today’s problems, which affect the solutions to the long-term problems I’ve already mentioned. Handling these shortterm problems in a fair, just and egalitarian way is critical to create the basis for handling the long-term problems Yemen face and will face. Q: You are a presidential advisor. What have you advised President Saleh to do to solve the grave economic, political, and social issues facing your country? We know what we have to do. But it is the government that must take action. I’ll give you some examples. The question of population growth is not about birth control, but about organizing family planning; it’s not to restrict
families from reproducing, but to sensitize them to the fact that three children are more easy to manage than ten. It’s the same thing with water. We know there is a wasteful use of water in Yemen. Traditional irrigation is wasteful, but changing this requires resources for implementing a modern irrigation system. Yemen lacks these resources. Regulating underground water is also necessary. Presently, it’s a free for all and I openly say this should not be the case. Q: But you haven’t mentioned the most pressing economic and political issues. With regard to the economy, I think petroleum products subsidies –particularly gasoil- are really draining the economy. I’m 40
People - Interview probably still disliked for being the man who took severe actions to remove these subsidies, but I’m still on the same line on that policy. Subsidies today are really bleeding the economy. According to the prime minister, the subsidies to gasoil exceed $2 billion a year, which is a considerable figure for a country like Yemen, where per capita income is less than $900 a year. $2billion for Yemen is like $200 billion to the United States. This is why the president has drafted an action program for the next 18 months. The first step in removing the burden of subsidies is to completely convert power stations into gas. This will reduce the burden of subsidies in 50 percent. Even though this means addressing and implementing unpopular measures, it has to be done sooner rather than later. Q: Yemen is fighting a Houthi insurrection in the north and separatist rebels in the south. The government has been accused of being heavy-handed facing its rebellions. Do you agree? (After a long breath) It takes two to tango. If they tone it down, we can do the same. Q: Isn’t President Ali Abdullah Saleh just trying to reassert his power? President Saleh has been president for 30 something years. He doesn’t need to. Q: Cooptation has been proven to be at least be as effective as military action, as we clearly saw in Iraq with U.S. forces. Has Yemen done enough on this front? Regarding the rebellion, I think the foreign component of the Houthi up rise is becoming more and more critical. There is no doubt that there has been injustice in dealing with the so-called Zaydis, especially regarding the attitude of certain extremist Islamic movements that do not recognize them or consider them heretic. That should have been handled more carefully and should have been subdued Issue 1532
very early, before the problem had grown. That was probably a mistake, but the problem now is that they are in the hands of foreign elements that manipulate them for their own political and strategic interests. This makes it very difficult for the government to get rid of them.
in the unrest in the south. And of course there were mistakes by several governments, maybe even my own. I don’t deny it.
That was probably a mistake, but the problem now is that they are in the hands of foreign elements that manipulate them for their own political and strategic interests. This makes it very difficult for the government to get rid of them
I think the entire country and political decision system must take a serious look into how this could be ended, i.e., how we could end the bloodshed. And even though I agree with you that we can’t just blame foreign elements alone and that we have to be more forthcoming, the other side, those people, they too must liberate themselves from their external influence. Those two issues should come together.
Q: Under what terms would you negotiate with the Houthis? What would you offer in return? I would offer them free practice of their faith and help to teach the various aspects of their faith (provided they don’t promote a return to monarchy). I would also offer political incentives, a political party, and maybe schools; not more autonomy, but more freedom and education, more liberty in voicing their ideology. Wars always end with negotiations. No war has ever ended without the parties sitting around a table. The Houthis have been offered the opportunity of becoming a political party, of having their own newspaper, of participating in freedom of expression, and in the process of democratization taking place Yemen. Unfortunately they haven’t responded positively to these offerings. With regards to the south, the problem is far more related to the economy and high rates of unemployment than to the antiunity movement. It will take time. Today I think unemployment is a great factor
Q: The foreign element you are referring to is Iran. But you can’t seriously blame everything on Iranian influence. There must be a local element.
Q: What about other foreign influence, that is, the friendly Arab one coming to help Yemen? The political crisis is draining the economy; there is no question about it. It is certainly accentuating the problems the economy of Yemen is facing. The economy should depend on foreign direct investment and Yemen has a great potential for tourism. At the same time our neighbors should open their doors to employ more Yemenis. That is critical to Yemen’s future and stability. Q: What kind of role is Saudi Arabia playing? A positive role, once we solved our boundary problem. Q: Saudi Arabia and the United States fear Al Qaida is regrouping in Yemen. Is this true? No question about it, particularly in the south. Whenever they find a soft spot, they go there. Interview Conducted by Andres Cala - Madrid-based freelance journalist and political scientist specialising in Middle Eastern and European policy, as well as global energy issues. 41
13 November, 2009
Economics Arab Economics
Digital Liftoff By Stephen Glain
Economics - Arab Economics
The Digital Market in the Middle East Stephen Glain Online services and digital marketing are poised to be the Middle East's next big growth market as technological advances, deregulation, and a young population serve as a beacon for the world's internet giants. With the advent of high-speed connectivity, analysts are forecasting growth in online advertising of between 35-40 percent and the market for Arabic-language products and services is still largely unplumbed.
market poised for growth, open to foreign investment and largely untouched is a rare thing indeed, which is why Yahoo!’s purchase this year of a leading Arab internet company was perceived by online analysts as a trailblazing deal. In August, the California-based internet giant bought online community Maktoob.com of Saudi Arabia for a reported $150 million, a move that put the Arab world in play for digital marketers globally. Long considered a backwater of the worldwide web, the Middle 13 November, 2009
East in general and the Gulf states in particular represent one of its fastest-growing markets. “The rocket is on the launch pad and the weather forecast is perfect,” says Niko Ruokosuo, the CEO of Saudi Specialized Publishing Holding Co. “This is a virgin market with only few major players. The revenue potential is huge.” A confluence of record oil wealth, a young population, technical advances and deregulation has created a bonanza for digital services ranging from social networking and cell-phone texting,
to online advertising and banking. And the market is still young, particularly for Arabic-language services. While internet use in the region has grown more than ten times over the last decade, less than one percent of the Arab world’s 320 million inhabitants are consuming online content in Arabic. Facebook, the world’s leading online community, now offers an Arabiclanguage service and it is only a matter of time, experts say, before web heavyweights like Ebay and Amazon follow suite. “As long as global players see 44
Economics - Arab Economics growth elsewhere in the world, that will keep them busy because Arabizing sites and understanding Islam is a big stretch for them,” says Ruokosuo. “But as growth hits the ceiling they’ll start showing an interest here because once you understand the culture this becomes a huge transnational market.” That was certainly the motivation behind Yahoo!’s bid for Maktoob. com, which was launched in 2000 from a small headquarters in Amman, Jordan. Though the bilingual news and information website has yet to disclose revenue figures, it employs some 260 people and reports 16.5 million unique visitors in such countries as the UAE, Jordan, Kuwait, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Announcing the purchase, Yahoo! chief executive officer Carol Batz said the deal was representative of Yahoo!’s strategy of targeting emerging markets as the next frontier for growth. Like other emerging markets, the Gulf states and much of the Levantine Arab world have proved surprisingly resilient to the global credit crisis that erupted a year ago with the collapse of lending in the US. That, investors say, makes digital marketing and Information Technology an untapped sector in an underdeveloped economic bloc. “The only direction to go is up,” says HRH Prince Mohammed K.A. Al Faisal, whose investment holding company, Al Faisaliah Group, includes systems integrator Al Faisaliah Business & Technology Services Co. “All the major players globally need assets here on the ground and the ability of this region to integrate with them is well established.” Online business in the Middle East has been percolating for some time, though the advent of high-speed internet connectivity is rapidly accelerating demand. Roughly half the population of the Arab world is less than 30 years old and it is growing at more than two percent a year – a tantalizing market for media and entertainment providers. In Saudi Arabia, which censors Issue 1532
public media like movies, plays and concerts, consumption of online services has risen sharply along with online advertising rates, which in the kingdom are 3 to 5 times higher than in Europe. Regionwide, spending on digital marketing is expected to grow by 35 to 40% this year, according to Dubai-based Madar Research. Patty Keegan, an Australian internet adviser, estimates that the value of internet advertising in the Middle East is expected to double from its current $21 million to $43 million in 2011. The penetration rate of online services and the hardware to carry them, while miniscule relative to the Arab world’s total population, is poised for a similar trajectory. Online access rates in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, at roughly a quarter of the population, is expected to double within three to four years, say analysts. Mobile phone usage throughout the Arab Middle East is much heavier – comprising more than 100 percent of the population in some countries – and high-capacity, 3rd-generation standard networks are increasing in availability. Abu Dhabi is scheduled to invest $15 billion in its IT sector by 2011, according to international consultant Global Insight. In April, Abu Dhabi telecommunications giant Etisalat signed a deal with Blackberry that will provide 10,000 new Blackberry users with unlimited web access.
“In a few years, you’ll have this perfect storm between internet penetration and communication between individuals,” says Bander Asiri the managing director of Al Khaleejiah, a Riyadh-based media and public relations firm. “With the introduction of $350 computers, suddenly whole new sectors of society are able to get onto the internet.” What could go wrong? That high population growth rate that is so appealing to digital marketers could become a burden if growth slows and economies are unable to create enough opportunity for new job seekers. Oil prices could collapse, which would reduce foreign interest in the region generally. Government regulators, who have helped fuel the digital boom by dismantling barriers to its markets, may reverse course and join the nativist trend that is hobbling commerce worldwide. Still, today’s novelty – settling bank accounts over the internet, for example, or surveying restaurant reviews via cell phone – is often tomorrow’s necessity. If the evolution of online marketing and IT in the developed world is anything to go by, Yahoo!’s entry into the Middle Eastern market was only the first arrival in what will likely be a pilgrimage of digital giants. 45
Economics - International Investor
Eurasec: a powerful term in the investment glossary? Eurasian Economic Community and its implications for regional energy sector Euresec appears as a particularly viable regional integration initiative. Most recently, integration efforts have undertaken a new energy, due to the region’s natural resources and the potential behind its energy sector. Nikolay Murashkin points out to investors how the macroeconomic and geopolitical situation of the countries involved renders this union a potential heavyweight in the energy sector. The New Silk Road
further price liberalization.
Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan – each of these toponyms is better known to international investor community individually rather than collectively as the Eurasian Economic Community, or Eurasec. Yet in the midto-long run this group of former USSR countries – the centerpiece of the “New Silk Road” – has a distinctive potential for economic integration, namely in the fields of natural resources, power generation and distribution- key sectors for those emerging economies.
Uzbekistan used to be the sixth permanent member of Eurasec but has temporarily suspended its membership in December 2008. Such strategy is consistent with the country’s competition for regional leadership with Kazakhstan and is part of historic manoeuvring between Russia, China and the West throughout last two decades. Yet for the region’s energy Uzbekistan’s stance has a particular importance – it is a major regional natural gas supplier within the region, 3rd global uranium producer and a blocking stakeholder of hydroelectric power generation projects on principal trans-border rivers of the region – Amu Darya and Syr Darya.
So far Eurasec appears as one of the most viable regional integration initiatives in the Newly Independent States. After almost a decade of government-driven negotiations criticized for their slowpaced coxing and boxing, the last 12 months resulted in a number of tangible achievements for Eurasian trading bloc. From 1 January 2010 Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia are expected to levy a common single external tariff to other states and share a common Customs code. Harmonization of tripartite customs legislation is to be finalized by mid2011, and all three countries have even declared an intention to enter the WTO as a trading bloc. In bid to ease liquidity, the governments have established a $10 bn mutual anti-crisis fund intended for sovereign and stabilization loans as well as for financing the capital expenditures of common projects. The commitment of member states to common economic policies is energetic for natural reasons. In aggregate, Eurasec’s countries are endowed with the reserves of more than 27% of world’s gas, almost 10% of world’s oil and 25% of world’s uranium. Such specialization motivates those economies to shift their status from mere commodity sources to a global collective energy player. The ultimate objective of creating a single energy and especially electricity market has been repeatedly stated by Eurasec’s officials. Whether this alleviates collective Dutch disease or provides a placebo is another matter, but what is important from the point of view of potential investor in Eurasec is the macroeconomic situation. The Macroeconomy of Eurasec While the political stability of the Customs Union members is unlikely 13 November, 2009
Nikolay Murashkin to deteriorate in the middle term and their economic recovery from the global financial crisis is slightly faster than worldwide, privatization is not yet complete in the Central Asian countries. Russia has recently announced its intention to reduce the State’s share in key corporates (including oil & gas) and launch a new cycle of privatization. At the same time, all Eurasec countries are facing needs for recapitalization of their banking industries and securing long-term funding for intensive capex requirements of its real sector, especially in natural resources and infrastructure which modernization is a sine qua non for further development of regional pipeline and electricity networks. Another key issue is the management of the region’s hydroelectric potential in the conditions of uneven distribution of resources between the countries bordering the Ferghana valley. Access to sovereign funds is essential in this situation and the creation of in-house Eurasian Development Bank by Eurasec is a sound measure, especially given member states’ aspiration towards more autonomous foreign policy. However, it remains a minor assistance tool, while the Community is disparately more dependent on the investment from the West and Japan than on investment within Eurasec. Another reason of the strife towards becoming an international power heavyweight is Eurasec’s significant electricity generation capacity and desire to tap into lucrative Asian markets. Chinese demand alone would be able to boost the electricity export of the whole Commonwealth of Independent States by 200%. Given the ongoing reform of Russian power market and investment expansion of Russian gencos in Central Asian countries, Eurasec would be a regionally-framed impulse towards
On one hand, Russia’s “locomotive” role in Eurasec, if supported by proper financial involvement, may provide it with a better leverage over Central Asian pipeline projects. So far Central Asian gas was transported via Gazprom-dominated “Bukhara-Ural” and “Central AsiaCentre” routes. The feasibility of pipeline projects circumventing Russia and Iran, such as Nabucco or Trans-Caspian, remained doubtful for various geopolitical and economic reasons. On the other hand, Uzbekistan has significantly increased its export capacity and additional gas volumes are regarded as a means of diversification of its sales structures. Since the future of Uzbekistani gas supplies to the West remains unclear, China is the main alternative destination. Its role is proven by a pipeline project from Uzbekistan to China and by already existing gas pipeline Central Asia-China for Kazakhstani and Uzbekistani gas. The bargaining power of Central Asian oil and gas-producing countries demonstrates that even though Russia’s weight in Eurasec is close to dominant and the single tariff implementation is imminent, the trading bloc is unlikely to become a members-only investment club. On the contrary, in the middle term Eurasec is likely to be regarded by its members as another framework agreement, without any limitations on acquisitions of non-strategic participatory interest in own natural resources entities by foreign investors, especially given the current tight macroeconomic context. UK-based researcher with a speciality in the energy sector and regional focus on Central Asia. 46
13 November, 2009
Economics - Markets Average annual price Nov 9, 2009: Hong Kong gold closes per troy ounce at all-time high of $1,107.50-$1,108.50 (U.S. dollars: Value fixed to year) Jan 8, 1980: Gold hits record $871.96 $875.80 an ounce following Soviet invasion of Afghanistan
Source: Kitco Inc.
© GRAPHIC NEWS
On Monday, 9 of November, the Dow Jones Industrial average gained 200 points to close at 10,226.94. This is the highest mark of the year. If this trend continues this would confirm that the recovery is indeed “V” shaped rather than “W” shaped.
The World Bank and the IMF underlined this week in two reports that governments and central banks’ efforts to stimulate the economy may eventually contribute to an asset price bubble in stock and currency markets in Asia.
China 2007 emissions 6.1bn tonnes
The International Energy Agency’s 450 Scenario proposes to reduce energy-related carbon dioxide emissions to 450 parts per million by 2030. This level is forecast to limit global warming to a rise of just 2ºC. Under the proposal, carbon dioxide emissions must decline by 13.8 billion tonnes compared to current projected increases
World’s biggest polluters
Population 1,327m Share of world pop. 20% Share of world CO2 21% Per capita CO2 4.6 tonnes Cost 2010-2030 $2,437bn
2007 emissions 3.9bn tonnes
World carbon dioxide emissions from consumption and flaring of fossil fuels
1979: Landmark report by U.S. National Academy of Sciences pins greenhouse effect to climate change and warns “a wait-and-see policy may mean waiting until it is too late”
Population 496m Share of world pop. 7% Share of world CO2 13% Per capita CO2 7.8 tonnes Cost 2010-2030 $1,769bn
17% 29% 1992, Rio Summit: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – which calls for voluntary cuts in greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels – signed by 189 governments
7% 12% 56%
Population 142m Share of world pop. 2% Share of world CO2 5% Per capita CO2 11.1 tonnes Cost 2010-2030 $329bn
1997: Kyoto Protocol, which requires industrialised nations to reduce emissions by 5.2% by 2008-2012 compared with 1990 levels, is signed by 84 countries
Population 1,123m Share of world pop. 17% Share of world CO2 5% Per capita CO2 1.2 tonnes Cost 2010-2030 $818bn Million tonnes of carbon dioxide 30,000
2005: Kyoto Protocol enters into force
Population 128m Share of world pop. 2% Share of world CO2 4% Per capita CO2 9.6 tonnes Cost 2010-2030 $399bn World total (2006) 29,195.43 Asia & Oceania
1988: NASA scientist James Hansen tells U.S. Congress global warming “is already happening” 1980
Picture: Getty Images. Sources: Met Office, World Resources Institute, Energy Information Administration, International Energy Agency
2004: Russia ratifies Kyoto Protocol. Moscow’s approval enables pact to take effect
2006: China overtakes U.S. as world’s biggest producer of CO2
2001: IPCC declares evidence for global warming to be incontrovertible although consequences for climate change are difficult to pin down. United States, biggest single CO2 polluter, abandons Kyoto
2007 emissions 1.2bn tonnes
2007 emissions 1.3bn tonnes
*Carbon capture and storage
Due to rounding, percentages may not total 100%
1988: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is set up under UN auspices to forge scientific consensus on how to measure and analyse global warming
2007 emissions 1.6bn tonnes
Efficiency savings: End-user
2030: 26.4bn 450 Scenario limits rise to manageable 2˚C
Population 306m Share of world pop. 5% Share of world CO2 20% Per capita CO2 18.7 tonnes Cost 2010-2030 $2,395bn
Renewable energy Biofuel Nuclear CCS*
2020: 30.7bn Fossil fuel use peaks by 2018
If current policies are pursued (energy-related CO2, tonnes) 450 Scenario emissions % proportion of emissions by source 2030: 40.2bn Greenhouse gas Power concentration of 1,000ppm could 2020: 34.5bn Transport 40 billion cause temperature Current policies tonnes Industry to rise by 5°C would allow emissions to Buildings continue to rise Other 35 2007: 28.8bn
Cutting global emissions
2007 emissions 5.7bn tonnes
Africa Middle East
2006 © GRAPHIC NEWS
13 November, 2009
Reviews - Books
Reforming education in Saudi Arabia Bold Reflections on Saudi education Mounira Jamjoom Arab Scientific Publishers, Inc. This book states that for the Gulf countries to be strong and productive the right decisions should made by the states as well as by individuals. This is especially relevant in the field of education.
old education is the pillar among which civilizations are built. Mounira Jamjoom emphasizes this notion with great passion in her book Bold Reflections on Saudi Education. For the love of her country that she expresses repeatedly in her book; she criticizes harshly not only the condition of education but also the intellectual and cultural context that dominates Saudi Arabia. The book represents a mixture of the author's personal reflections on her personal experience , particularly in the academic field where she has been an active researcher in the field of pedagogy. One of the author's aims is to question the Saudi identity, which she argues, needs to be redefined. She begins her assessment with a rather philosophical introduction. More specifically, the author clarifies that it is crucial for every human being to know him/herself, to understand their society and the dynamics in their community in order for them to reach their potential. Jamjoom addresses the confusion and the identity crisis that prevails not only in the Saudi community but in the whole of the Arab and Muslim world."Who are we?" she asks, and how does our self understanding promote or inhibit the educational system that Saudi Arabia needs to stay on a successful track. The bookâ€™s critique takes an interesting approach by asking the reader to understand education beyond its superficial aspects. That is, to abandon questions like how many chairs should be there in a class? Or does every student need a laptop? Instead she asks the reader to redefine his expectations of what education is and what its goals should be. The questions that should be asked instead, then, are: Whose syllabi 13 November, 2009
are being taught in our schools? Whose voices are being heard and where are the other voices? Those questions lead to new definitions of education in its ideal state, and potentially hold the key for improvement. Jamjoom dedicates an entire chapter to demonstrating how often syllabi are mislabelled. She shares her knowledge about the definition of the syllabus and provides her own opinion about what makes a good syllabus, one that truly reflects all of the individuals in a given society with all their differences. One that gives space for the teacher and the student to be creative, the Saudi community as well as the Arab world as a whole lacks such syllables. The book poses many questions. Motivated by the love she has for her country and what she calls "positive depression" Jamjoom is bold and not afraid to questions what have been taken for granted for years, such as history books. "Is it our history or our illusion that we are teaching?" she dedicates an entire chapter to answer this question and compares to the way American history is taught in the United States which she believes is inspiring. "The Saudi teacher is more important that the foreign expert" she notes in one chapter, as she lights the important role the teacher plays acknowledging that his vital role is being underestimated by the entire society and even the teacher himself sometimes. Even though Jamjoom doesn't seem the least bit hesitant throughout the book to speak her mind and question her surroundings, she admits she hesitated before writing the chapter "Islamic education". It is indeed a sensitive topic in a country that puts a high regard to teaching Islamic religion. Out of her
true sense of responsibility she decided to go on with the chapter and states her observations that she knows may stir many controversies. From how the religion syllables in the Kingdom have been politicized to how the teacher answers the endless questions of his/her curious students about Islam and other religions. It is evident that Jamjoom is not the least bit satisfied with the way women are being portrayed in the syllables. She believes this may have long lasting results that hurt the relationship between men and women in the community. Mounira Jamjoom identifies herself as a researcher, a Muslim woman, a citizen that deeply loves her country and all of this is reflected in her book. This is clearly not an academic book, nor is it scientific research; it is in many ways very personal. The author is young and passionate and she writes with great enthusiasm. She may seem radical in many of her judgments and the changes she wants to see in her country. However, this can be seen as a fault as the book lacks viable solutions and constructive suggestions. On the other hand Jamjoom uses many examples and anecdotes to back up her arguments. She does not impose her conclusion in any way rather she asks many questions and hopes to open the floor for discussion about education in Saudi Arabia. The book is bold indeed, it is evident that Mounira is not trying to make anything sound better or beautify what she believes is an ugly truth. The sense of responsibility, curiosity and patriotism is what any country needs to embark on the much needed process of self criticism which eventually leads to development.
Reviews - Readings
Strength in What Remains
Tracy Kidder Random House Publishing August 2009 Strength in What Remains has a global outlook, addressing issues of immigration world poverty, and violence by focusing on the story of one man, a Burundian medical school student who survived Tutsi Hutu massacres in Burundi and the genocide in neighbouring Rwanda.
End of the Fed
Ron Paul Grand Central Publishing September 2009 In Ron Paulâ€™s book, he argues that the Fed is both corrupt and unconstitutional by drawing on American history, economics and stories from his own political life. He argues that the Fed is inflating currency today at nearly a Weimar or Zimbawe level. Ron Paul claims that the public needs to understand the Fed is working against their interest and not in their favour.
Reports Five Alternatives that Make More Sense than Offshore Oil Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Whitney Leonard Carnegie Paper October 2009 Proponents of offshore oil drilling ignore reality: offshore oil reserves are too small to significantly impact world oil process or U.S. reliance on foreign oil.. This paper identifies five alternatives to offshore oil for the transportation sector that would decrease energy demand, limit U.S. dependence on foreign oil, cut costs for consumers, and reduce carbon emissions.
Podcast Lebanon: Deadly Month for Domestic Workers Human Rights Watch November 9, 2009
Human Rights Watch calls the Lebanese government to investigate the deaths of 8 migrant domestic workers during October 2009, as well as the reasons for highly disproportionately high death rate among this group of workers. An estimated 200,000 domestic workers, primarily from Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Ethiopia work in Lebanon. Issue 1532
Reviews - Reports
The Afghan Dilemma Afghanistanâ€™s Election Challenges Asia Report No 171 International Crisis Group June 24, 2009 The Afghan Election: Who Lost What Congressional Testimony by J Alexander The United States Institute of Peace October 1, 2009
Afghan elections have taken a considerable portion of international attention throughout the past months, developing into an international dilemma as a result of their fraudulent results. ICG and USIP have issued two reports concerning the event, one prior to and the other after the elections. Where one provides foresight and recommendations, the other delivers post election analysis and future scenarios.
he International Crisis Group's report was issued a month ahead of Augusts' controversial elections in Afghanistan. The report bases its analysis on the Afghan political context, and the challenges it placed on the electoral process. First, the report tackles the weak state institutions in Afghanistan, in addition to the grave security situation, as factors that were likely to have an effect on the elections. The weak electoral infrastructure and the failed attempts at democratization were also highlighted as opposing forces to untainted and credible elections. Accordingly, the report summed 13 November, 2009
up challenges to the elections in 3 aspects; technical, political and security related. On the technical aspect, the report reiterates the failure of the Afghan government and the international community to seize the post 2004 elections as an opportunity for capacity building. It also suggests that this moment would have been appropriate to provide the Afghan Independent Election Commission, with support that would have increased their legitimacy. Political centralization was also branded as a political factor that led to a weakened relationship among governmental branches and took a toll on the voting process. Based
on the security status, the report demonstrated foresight in expecting a low turn out rate in the provinces with security threats, which indeed occurred at the time of the elections. Consequently, the report advised increasing security measures to compensate for organizational and structural shortcomings, in addition to focusing on the provision of "impartiality", "integrity" and "professionalism" of the electoral staff. As analytical as the report is, it suffers from several shortcomings. First, amidst the numerous recommendations offered by the report, it fails to mention recommendations for cooperation 54
Reviews - Reports among different branches of the government to ensure a "Checks and Balances" system. Secondly, the report overlooked the culture of the Afghan community. For instance, women can barely leave their houses without the consent of their husbands, thus handing a golden opportunity to those committing fraud. At the registration offices, long lists of women's names were handed in by men including the names of whom they claimed to be their spouses and female relatives. Furthermore, the recommendations offered by the report could be criticized as being overly theoretical and irrelevant to the worsening circumstances in Afghanistan. If the government, aided by the international community, failed to achieve consistent security and democracy throughout 4 years, it is highly unlikely that the recommendations be attainable during the short time span preceding the elections. The second report The second reportisisa Congressional a Congressional testimony by Alex Thier, USIP's Afghanistan and Pakistan program. The testimony took place after the elections and a month ahead of a potential run off between Karzai and Abdullah. The testimony paves the road for analysis by underlining the importance of the elections as a "referendum on nearly eight years of partnership between the Karzai administration and the international community." For Thier, the elections are but a method of portraying that the "righteousness" of a non-violent democracy in Afghanistan is possible. Flawed as the elections maybe, Thier sees a silver lining in the upcoming run off, that might restore confidence in both the government and the rights it can offer people. Thier pillars his testimony on the mutual exclusiveness of security and legitimacy, which is later contradicted by mentioning that the 300 million dollars worth of counter-insurgency support deemed futile in asserting a sense security and putting a stop to corruption. Thier further praises the presence of institutions such as the IEC and EEC that are capable of enforcing Issue 1532
law upon perpetrators. Therefore, there remains hope in applying the lessons learned in the run off and undoing some of the harm caused in August. Their, however, fails to mention that IEC is one of the victims of the centralization of power, hence falling in the clutch of corruption. Further, Thier also overlooks that the majority of ECC board members â€“ the commission that uncovered the fraud â€“ are non Afghans. It is also worth mentioning that there's an upcoming parliamentary law that will strip ECC from having a majority of non Afghan board members, hence removing its autonomy. The aforementioned suggests that Afghanistan still is dependent on international support, contrary to what many claim. Aside from fears of the expected violence in the run off, Thier advises the U.S. to take a more vehement approach in strengthening institutions in Afghanistan in addition to aiding the upcoming
president in announcing a zero tolerance policy towards corruption. Thier however neglects the role of the UN in the infrastructure building of Afghanistan. Before the elections, Peter Galbraith, the deputy head of the UN mission, called for closing down of 1,500 insecure "Ghost Stations" due to the risk of their manipulation in fraud. Galrbraith was fired, and the ballots in those stations were stuffed, as he had correctly predicted. Thier advocates fighting the culture of impunity in Afghanistan, but even if his advice is implemented, who is to punish whom? Albeit being complementarily analytical, ICG and Alex Thier both fail in providing novel and pragmatic solutions to an ongoing issue that goes far beyond being a fraudulent election. For the complete reports please see: http://www.crisisgroup.org http://www.usip.org 55
The Political Essay
War and its Discontents
The post-war societies in Afghanistan The way in which different countries choose to describe their involvement in Afghanistan– be it “war”, “reconstruction” or “state-building”- provides great insight into their expectations, and their commitment to stay in Afghanistan. This is perhaps one means of understanding the different policy approaches being implemented by the EU, the UK and the US towards Afghanistan.
any terms are used to characterize the international intervention in Afghanistan. And all of them carry a political weight. In the United States, “war” was the preferred term during the Bush era. This has not changed with the Obama Administration. As Obama declared in March 2009 “it has been more than seven years since the Taliban was removed from power, yet war rages on, and insurgents control parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan… The United States of America did not choose to fight a war in Afghanistan.” In most European capitals, the term “war” is faced with more caution and scepticism. The preferred terms are “reconstruction” or “peacekeeping”. In the aftermath of 911/, the US and the UK launched Operation Enduring Freedom against al-Qaeda and the Taliban (who provided al-Qaeda a safe haven). This was the beginning of the “War on Terror”, which in Afghanistan turned out to be the war against alQaeda, the Taliban, other militants and drug lords. Also, and for the first time since its creation, NATO invoked its Article 5 and the International Security Assistance Force was deployed, under the authority of the UN Security Council. Since then, the tensions and disagreements between the US, the UK to a certain extent, and all the other NATO members with strong presence in Afghanistan, have been constant. The different ways of describing intervention, be it “war” or “reconstruction”, indicate more than semantic differences. The use of different terms by the US and the EU reflects the reasoning behind their presence in Afghanistan, and more importantly the mode by which they are willing to become involved. In contrast with the US and UK’s straightforward “War on Terror”, the EU countries involved in NATO’s ISAF operations did so according to the official goal of assisting “the Afghan government in the maintenance of security in Kabul and its surrounding areas, so that the new Afghan Interim Authority and the United Nations personnel could work in a secure environment.” 13 November, 2009
contribution was one that was made in the terms which Europeans felt their capabilities and instruments could be better applied and, especially, one which was consistent with their internal public mood which is not sympathetic to war. This explains the focus on institution building, reform of the judiciary system, police training, and rural development.
Manuel Almeida Many explanations can be found for the different approaches and degrees of involvement. First of all, the United States was the target of 911/, and hence felt more compelled to act more vigorously in Afghanistan. Certainly the issue of capabilities and instruments available is also important. Whereas the United States is the world’s unquestionable military leading power, and the UK possesses the most important army of all EU states, the remaining EU and NATO members involved in Afghanistan lack anything similar in terms of military capabilities. However, this is not the main explanation. Instead, the capabilities gap is another consequence of the central issue, which is the way these countries perceive the world, themselves, and how their societies feel about violence in general and war in particular. The United States and EU countries are all democracies, but of different kinds. Perhaps the biggest difference between the US and the EU democracies is their internal predisposition to wage war. Robert Kagan characterized this well by saying that the Americans live in a Hobbesian world and the Europeans in a Kantian world. This is reflected on how American politicians on the one side, and EU politicians on the other, deal with the dilemma between domestic electoral pressures and international security challenges. The European contribution in Afghanistan is not a minor one, as the commitment of more than 8 billion Euros in aid illustrates. This
In the US, the debate about Afghanistan is again centred on whether or not to send more troops to the ground, especially following General McChrystal’s August report. Though reluctant to increase the troops for political reasons or as a demonstration of strength, the Obama Administration is not excluding the possibility of reinforcing the military presence. This scenario is deeply contrasted by the atmosphere in European capitals. Here, the main debate is when to pull out, and the voice of those who argue “as soon as possible” is gaining strength. While NATO’s European countries were not interested in war, war was interested in them. Certainly not a traditional kind of war, but what is called “new war” or “irregular warfare”. In any case, still war. The most striking example of how European NATO troops are more involved in the conflict than they expected regards the German troops. Previously not allowed to engage in combat, Germans were forced, under heavy attacks by the Taliban, to reconsider their rules of engagement which date back to the post World War II era. With the exception of the UK, the EU countries didn’t chose to be involved in Afghanistan with a goal of winning a war. What was at stake was much more a political position rather than a military one. European countries couldn’t let the United States go it alone. It was a decision to gain political capital, which proved to be a rather untenable one for their identities as post-war societies. 56
13 November, 2009