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Warning to Oman: Don’t ruin your future by forgetting history

Mohammad Ghaderi

After Benjamin Netanyahu’s trip to Muscat which was aimed at causing conflict between Islamic countries and white-washing Palestinians’ genocide in Gaza Strip, Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi attended Manama Dialogue security summit in Bahrain and made a speech.

Bin Alawi’s speech, made under obvious pressure from U.S. to change the atmosphere in favor of Zionist regime, contained some remarks that Sultanate of Oman is certainly aware of its consequences.

These are the points that Sultanate of Oman need to take into consideration:

  1. Zionist regime and Benjamin Netanyahu who falsely call themselves the representative of Jews and are currently tackling a variety of local and regional problems, seek rescue from their certain annihilation with fueling “Iran phobia” and covering up their crimes against humanity over the last 70 years. Trump’s support of the usurper Zionist regime is definitely not aimed at resolving the regional problems in west and west south Asian, but it is aimed to set the ground to orchestrate the century’s unfair deal in favor of the usurpers of the holy lands in Palestine.
  2. In current situation that there is almost a universal union against U.S. and its allies due to their abnormal behavior, it is ordinary that their plans, especially in regard to Palestine, have been interrupted; consequently kindling hostility and abusing the good reputation of a country like Oman is their last resort in changing the world’s ambience and postponing their imminent failure and annihilation.
  3. Considering the fact that Sayyid Qaboos bin Said, the Sultan of Oman hosted Netanyahu and bin Alawi’s speech at Manama Dialogue, Muscat’s officials must heed the warnings that this behavior will neither result in the same conclusion that Muhammad Anwar el-Sadat reached in making peace with Israel, nor will it have any benefit for Muslim community or for resolving Palestine’s issues. So, don’t let your name to be recorded in history as the supporter of a mock-up, usurper and anti-human regime, in case the future generations remember you in contempt.

 

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Demilitarized zone in Idlib: The road to the quartet summit

Kamran Gasanov

The possibility of military intervention by Bashar Assad’s forces in Idlib in early September increased the pressure on all foreign players involved in the Syrian conflict; however, it also enabled progress, which has brought the European Union, Turkey and Russia closer.

The deal between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin for the demilitarized zone revived the possibility of a summit with the participation of France, Germany, Turkey and Russia. In fact, less than two weeks after the Idlib agreement, Erdogan announced a tentative date for the summit during a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “A quartet summit will be held in Istanbul with Russia, Germany, France and Turkey. I have spoken to [French President Emmanuel] Macron. He has a positive approach to it. Merkel said there are elections on Oct. 14 in Bavaria, let’s do it after that,” Erdogan said.

The demilitarized zone is an important step on the way to convene the quartet summit. All radical and terrorist groups should evacuate the area by Oct. 15. On Oct. 10, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar confirmed that all heavy weapons, including tanks and artillery, had already been withdrawn. For its part, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov praised the “implementation of agreements” in the demilitarized zone and said that the process is going on “quite progressively.”

The progress in Idlib and the creation of a buffer zone between government forces and the opposition creates an atmosphere of security for local residents, even if Lavrov calls the demilitarized zone a “preliminary measure.”  Following the deal, nearly 60,000 Syrians, who had fled Idlib in the face of an offensive by the Assad regime, returned to their homes.

This security and peace in northwest Syria has gradually eliminated fears in Europe about a new refugee crisis on the Syrian-Turkish border and thereafter, on the Turkish-EU borders. The finalization of a 15-kilometer buffer zone in Idlib, free of armed groups and weapons, and joint Turkish-Russian patrols are certainly sufficient conditions for Merkel, Macron, Erdogan and Putin to hold a joint meeting.

Turkey and Russia’s aim here is clear – inviting the EU to the reconstruction of Syria, which, according to the United Nations, would require around $250 billion. Prior to the Sochi meeting with Erdogan, Putin could not persuade Merkel to dole out the money.  Now that the circumstances in Idlib have changed and the possibility of a humanitarian catastrophe has been averted, it seems like the EU would be more willing to help develop a solution. Unfortunately, that hasn’t quite been the case.

Speaking at a joint briefing with Erdogan in Berlin, Merkel said that the situation in Idlib still remains “fragile.” The German chancellor is absolutely right.  Even though a buffer zone has successfully been established, the future of the rest of the province remains in doubt. Terrorists from Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (HTS), who control about half of Idlib, refuse to negotiate with Ankara and do not want to give up their weapons – a key condition in the Turkey-Russia deal.

To prolong the security in Idlib and keep another refugee crisis at bay, Ankara must make the HTS withdraw from the demilitarized zone and eventually from the whole province, either by HTS’s own free will or by force. If Ankara fails to do so, the Assad regime, backed by Russian air forces and Iranian proxies, will renew its military operation. The second issue limiting the EU’s willingness to aid northern Syria is political. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and French officials have already made it clear that Berlin and Paris will not pay a cent if Assad remains in power and there is no political development toward free elections.

For Moscow and Tehran, this is no-go scenario, at least until Assad regains control over all of Syria.  The EU may be willing to keep Idlib under the influence of anti-Assad Turkey, but this is not a reasonable and long-term solution, given Russia’s willingness to ultimately handover Idlib back to Assad.

Therefore, the upcoming summit between France, Germany Turkey and Russia would be no more than a declaration of intention. In the same manner as the meetings in the Normandy format over the Ukrainian crisis. Nevertheless, such a quartet meeting should be considered an important step toward dialogue and building trust between the three NATO allies and Russia. In the long-term, all four countries are interested in Syria’s stability. It would enable the return of millions of refugees from Turkey and the EU while working as an incentive for Brussels to finance the reconstruction of the war-torn country. Dissolution of the Idlib deal is especially dangerous for the mainstream parties in the EU, at a time when the far-right is gaining power from Sweden to Italy.

The biggest loser of the EU-Russia-Turkey alliance will be the US If the four countries agree on Idlib, Russia and Turkey will have more capacity and common ground to raise the question of the American presence east of the Euphrates. Last week, Lavrov reminded that the US is playing a dangerous game by creating “Syrian Kurdistan.” The US will do anything to undermine the creation of another political platform in Syria – in addition to the Astana format – without its own participation. After the release of the detained American pastor Andrew Brunson, the US may promise Turkey more backing in Idlib, pushing it to create there the same zone of influence as in Afrin or in the al-Bab-Jarabulus-Azaz triangle. The same pressure will face the EU, for example in the form of new tariffs.

On Oct. 10, the Russian Defense Ministry warned that Daesh attacked the headquarters of the Nusra Front, killing White Helmets and seizing canisters of chlorine. A chemical provocation could be another “appropriate option” to stop all efforts taken by Russia and Turkey for securing Idlib and opening the way for the quartet summit.

 

 

 

 

 

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Why Erdogan told the ‘half-naked’ truth

Hilal Kaplan

To sin by silence when we should protest makes cowards out of men” Ella Wheeler Wilcox.

The Saudi government was forced to drop the pretense and accept the fact that Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside their consulate in Istanbul thanks to Turkey’s “drip strategy” and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s unwavering moral stance.

The details uncovered thanks to the meticulous efforts of Turkish security and intelligence units were officially acknowledged by the highest authority of Saudi Arabia on Tuesday. But no one could have expected the president to publicly release a confidential audio recording that involves torture and murder. Turkey has shared the audio with the intelligence sources of relevant countries, including the US

All the evidence announced to public has already indicated that such a cold-blooded and brutal murder could not possibly be committed behind the back of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, who is in control of all the security apparatuses of the country including the security directorate, military, intelligence and National Guard Forces. It is demonstrated by the fact that Gen. Maher Mutreb, who led the hit squad in the slaying of Khashoggi, dialed the office of crown prince four times on the day of the incident. So far, Turkey has fully performed its legal responsibilities by presenting all the forensic evidence available, declaring the evidence and developments at the presidential level and telling Saudi King Salman that Turkish courts are ready to try the offenders fairly and transparently.

According to a news report by The New York Times, the Mecca governor Khaled al-Faisal visited President Erdogan to offer “cooperation” in return for financial aid and abolishing the blockade on Qatar that is strongly opposed by Turkey, and Erdogan turned down the offer, stating that Turkey will proceed to investigate the case until all the facts are revealed. In so doing, Erdogan duly performed his moral duty.

Now, it is the turn of the other countries. If French President Emmanuel Macron gets worked up and rebukes journalists when asked about the arm sales to Saudi Arabia, and if the US and Britain do not go further than putting a visa embargo on the 15 convicts, which is merely a symbolic step, it is hard to yield results from the investigation even if Turkey fulfills its political responsibility.

It was a mere coincidence that US President Donald Trump said in a rally that the Saudi royal family cannot remain in power even for two weeks without the US on the very day Khashoggi entered the consulate. But it exemplifies that the US has already been enjoying all the leverage against the kingdom. If that is the case and if Khashoggi’s death will not be in vain, it is an urgent need for the “free world” not to leave President Erdogan alone in “leading by example.”

 

 

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Killer politicians: Curtain of deniability lifting

Jeffrey D Sachs

“Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?” asked Henry II as he instigated the murder of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, in 1170. Down through the ages, presidents and princes around the world have been murderers and accessories to murder, as the great Harvard sociologist Pitirim Sorokin and Walter Lunden documented in statistical detail in their master work Power and Morality.

One of their main findings was that the behavior of ruling groups tends to be more criminal and amoral than that of the people over whom they rule. What rulers crave most is deniability. But with the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi by his own government, the poisoning of former Russian spies living in the United Kingdom, and whispers that the head of Interpol, Meng Hongwei, may have been executed in China, the curtain has been slipping more than usual of late. In Riyadh, Moscow, and even Beijing, the political class is scrambling to cover up its lethal ways.

But no one should feel self-righteous here. American presidents have a long history of murder, something unlikely to trouble the current incumbent, Donald Trump, whose favorite predecessor, Andrew Jackson, was a cold-blooded murderer, slave owner, and ethnic cleanser of native Americans. For Harry Truman, the atomic bombing of Hiroshima spared him the likely high cost of invading Japan. But the second atomic bombing, of Nagasaki, was utterly indefensible and took place through sheer bureaucratic momentum: The bombing apparently occurred without Truman’s explicit order.

Since 1947, the deniability of presidential murder has been facilitated by the Central Intelligence Agency, which has served as a secret army (and sometime death squad) for American presidents. The CIA has been a party to murders and mayhem in all parts of the world, with almost no oversight or accountability for its countless assassinations. It is possible, though not definitively proved, that the CIA even assassinated UN secretary general Dag Hammarskjöld.

The CIA has only been held to public account on one occasion: the 1975 US Senate hearings led by Frank Church. Since then, the CIA has continued its violent and, yes, murderous ways, without any accountability for it or for the presidents who authorized its actions.

Many mass killings by US presidents have involved the conventional military. Lyndon Johnson escalated US military intervention in Vietnam on the pretext of a North Vietnamese attack in the Gulf of Tonkin that never happened. Richard Nixon went further: By carpet-bombing Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, he sought to instill in the Soviet Union the fear that he was an irrational leader capable of anything. (Nixon’s willingness to implement his “madman theory” is perhaps the self-fulfilling proof of his madness.)

In the end, the Johnson-Nixon American war in Indochina cost millions of innocent lives. There was never a true accounting, and perhaps the opposite: plenty of precedents for later mass killings by US forces.

The mass killings in Iraq under George W Bush are of course better known, because the US-led war there was made for TV. A supposedly civilized country engaged in “shock and awe” to overthrow another country’s government on utterly false pretenses. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians died as a result. Barack Obama was widely attacked by the right for being too soft, yet he too notched up quite a death toll. His administration repeatedly approved drone attacks that killed not only terrorists, but also innocents and US citizens who opposed America’s bloody wars in Muslim countries.

He signed the presidential finding authorizing the CIA to cooperate with Saudi Arabia in overthrowing the Syrian government. That “covert” operation (hardly discussed in the polite pages of The New York Times) led to an ongoing civil war that has resulted in hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths and millions displaced from their homes.

He used North Atlantic Treaty Organization air strikes to overthrow Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, resulting in a failed state and ongoing violence. Under Trump, the US has abetted Saudi Arabia’s mass murder (including of children) in Yemen by selling it bombs and advanced weapons with almost no awareness, oversight, or accountability by Congress or the American public. Murder committed out of view of the media is almost no longer murder at all.

When the curtain slips, as with the Khashoggi killing, we briefly see the world as it is. A Washington Post columnist is lured to a brutal death and dismembered by America’s close “ally.”

The American-Israeli-Saudi big lie that Iran is at the center of global terrorism, a claim refuted by the data, is briefly threatened by the embarrassing disclosure of Khashoggi’s grisly end. Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who ostensibly ordered the operation, is put in charge of the “investigation” of the case; the Saudis duly cashier a few senior officials; and Trump, a master of non-stop lies, parrots official Saudi tall tales about a rogue operation.

A few government and business leaders have postponed visits to Saudi Arabia. The list of announced withdrawals from a glitzy investment conference is a who’s who of America’s military-industrial complex: top Wall Street bankers, CEOs of major media companies, and senior officials of military contractors, such as Airbus’s defense chief. The US prides itself on being a constitutional democracy, yet when it comes to foreign policy, the president is little different from a despot. Trump has just announced the US withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force Treaty without so much as a mention to Congress.

Political scientists should test the following hypothesis: Countries led by presidents (as in the US) and non-constitutional monarchs (as in Saudi Arabia), rather than by parliaments and prime ministers, are especially vulnerable to murderous politics. Parliaments provide no guarantees of restraint, but one-man rule in foreign policy, as in the US and Saudi Arabia, almost guarantees massive bloodletting.

Americans are rightly horrified by Khashoggi’s murder. But their own government’s murderous ways may be little different. The pervasiveness of state-sponsored killings is no excuse for treating murder as acceptable, ever. It is instead a rationale for subjecting power to strict constitutional constraints and especially to international law, including the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This is our only true hope for survival and safety in a world where the casual resort to violence can easily be the end of all of us.

 

 

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The 2 million city: Is 21st century Peshawar getting out of control

Zafar Khan Safdar

My city Peshawar is the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), a road and rail centre near the famed Khyber Pass, an important military and communications centre, the historical limit of the Grand Trunk Road of Indo-Pak, and the major depot for trade with Afghanistan. It is famous for local handicrafts, fruit farms, Industries that include food processing and the manufacture of steel, cigarettes, firearms, textiles, pharmaceuticals, furniture, shoes, marble, ceramics, match, paper and much more. It is bounded on the North by Charsadda district, on the East by Nowshera district, on the South by the tribal area adjoining Peshawar and Kohat districts and on the West by Mohmand and Khyber agencies. Total area of the district is 1257 sq Kms. Peshawar district is almost a fertile plain with small hilly area in the South-East which is a part of the main Khattak Range and its highest point is 1173 feet above the sea level.

Peshawar, a city that has been a victim of rapid and unplanned urbanisation for the past 3 decades, once city of fragrance has turned into a populace and a stained metropolitan. Peshawar has been an important trade hub for Afghanistan and the Central Asian Republics. It had been equipping the huge influx of Afghans after Afghan war (1979-1989) and during the period of Taliban government in Afghanistan (1996-2001). Even today as the NATO forces are fighting an unending war against terror in Afghanistan, millions of Afghans are taking refuge in KP as a whole and in Peshawar as particular. Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) of Swat and Waziristan operations also migrated to Peshawar during the years 2007-2016, most of them retuned following successful military operations, but the well-off settled permanently in Peshawar.

A study on the process of urbanization and urban growth in Peshawar since the beginning of the 20th century reveals a steady increase in the size of urban population and the degree of urbanization. But the tempo of increase became faster from 1981 onward. From 1981 to 1998, Peshawar’s urban population was more than three times. Urban population of Peshawar is growing at a rapid pace from 8% (1981) to 14% (2017) and approaching 18% by 2030. With its considerable advantages, the technological and industrial boom has also brought enormous problems to urban citizens instigating huge urban influx, degradation of the environment, acute shortage of space for housing, lack of sewage treatment and health facilities, polluted water, increase in the number of slums and transport constraints.

However, unlike the big cities in developed states, Peshawar is not able to take in more and more people because of unplanned and poor urban management and resource constraints. Out of total 4.269 million population, urban population of Peshawar is 1.970 million and it is estimated that the urban population of Peshawar will likely to increase up to 2.80 million by 2030. It is important to point out that most people including many social scientists and journalists believe that rural to urban migration is the prime factor of urbanization.

This myth has already been exploded by demographers. It may also be noted that the data under discussion does not include the Afghan refugees. Technically speaking the latter is not Peshawar population, and their inclusion would make the decennial census data incomparable. But when it comes to analysis and discussion of urban problems, their inclusion and mention in the analyses becomes necessary.

This aspect is, therefore, included in analysis and discussion of the problems associated with urban sprawl, especially in the context of Peshawar city in and around where these Afghan refugees live in a large number.

A comparative study of urbanity level of Peshawar vis-a-vis KP as a whole during 1901-1998, 1980-2017 brings out some interesting facts. As early as 1980, the urbanity level in KP was 12.7% while for the territories now comprising Peshawar, the corresponding figure was 9.8%. Peshawar maintained a higher urbanity level until 1941, but afterwards it lagged behind the KP’s overall averages in census counts of 1951 and onwards.

In the year 2017, the urbanity level of Peshawar was 18.9% and of KP as a whole was 38.5%.

Housing growth-rate in Peshawar has multiplied manifold in the past three decades. Increasing trend of urbanization in most parts of the country has its impacts on Peshawar as well. In access of improved facilities, people are trying to migrate to urban areas. In order to make them settled in these urban areas, there is unmet demand for more infrastructures in Peshawar. Number of houses are increasing in wake of these migrations.  According to the Housing Census 2015 and data available with the Peshawar development authority (PDA), the total number of houses in Peshawar was 0.167 million in 1981. It went to 0.236 million in 1998 and the number of houses in Peshawar remained 0.897 million in 2015. The projected trend could be much more in the near future.

With an alarming highest population growth rate of 3.99 per annum, the already over-populated Peshawar with massive urban sprawl is confronting allied challenges like traffic congestion, rise in temperature, environmental pollution, shortage of agri-land, lack of sewage-treatment facilities, contaminated drinking water, poor sanitation, law and order situation, and much more. Traffic congestion, as a regular feature, has been affecting every commuter irrespective of holidays, characterized by slower speeds, longer trip times, increased vehicular queueing, high operating costs, and the drivers becoming frustrated and engaging in road rage.

The problem becomes more severe in peak hours and credit goes to inefficient land use planning, poor infrastructure, and absence of sound traffic-management system.

Adding to the sufferings, the PTI provincial government started Rapid Bus Transit project (BRT) in October 2017 aiming to provide better and cheaper urban transportation but the project succumbed to inefficient supervision and it still cannot provide completion deadline.

Unplanned urban extension and rapid growth in population has resulted in significant rise of temperature of Peshawar.

According to Director metrological department Peshawar Mr. Liaquat Nazir “Average mean temperature of Peshawar remained 35 °C during summer throughout, but a constant and disturbing shift towards higher side is observed during the past three decade, seeing the temperature of Peshawar has risen from 35 °C (May-Sept) to 50 °C (May-Sept)”.

Likewise, the directorate of water and sanitation, Peshawar development authority (PDA) admits lack of sewage treatment facilities in Peshawar and denote it budgetary constraints. Visible smoke and dust all around the city is not only posing high threat to human life but has put the environment and beauty of the city at stake. In 2003-04, a study conducted by Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) in six cities including Peshawar.

The study concluded that emissions of all pollutants gases are too high in these cities.

The study also showed that concentrations of PM10 in Peshawar is more than 150ug/m3 (micrograms/meter-cubed) which is very alarming fact. The study also indicated that air pollution level in Peshawar is 20 times higher than the actual standard set by of the World Health Organization (WHO). These findings are based on a study conducted 15 years ago, today the situation is even worse. According to data available with the Directorate of Water and Sanitation (PDA), they supply water to 0.335 million housing units in Peshawar, whereas, the rest rely on their own sources.

According to PDA, water quality survey of River Kabul revealed that concentration of Coliform bacteria in river Kabul water is 1600/100 ml of water as compared to World Health Organization (WHO) standard of 3/100 ml of water. Three treatment plants were established for Peshawar but the same are not working to their full capacity.

Socio-economic changes in the city are indivisibly linked with alterations in urban policy and active investment processes in construction, engineering, development and urban landscaping.

The managerial decisions focused on short-term results are absolutely unacceptable. All factors like natural, historical, social, economic, environmental, cultural etc must be taken into account to address and to restore the magnificence of a city that was once known for its refinement and beauty.

He can be followed on twitter@zafarkhansafdar

 

 

 

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Denuclearization and ‘defining diplomacy down’

Richard Haass

Some 25 years ago, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a Harvard professor who in the course of his career served as United States ambassador to the United Nations and a US senator from New York, coined the phrase “defining deviancy down.” The phrase was meant to describe a social trend in which behavioral standards declined over time to the point that what was once intolerable became broadly acceptable.

I am reminded of Moynihan’s phrase when I consider the state of diplomacy aimed at bringing about North Korea’s denuclearization. Increasingly, the parties involved, including the United States and South Korea, appear to be relaxing their requirements for what is expected of North Korea. Call it “defining diplomacy down.”

All this has taken on more than a little urgency, because it is now more than four months since the Singapore summit and there is talk that US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will meet again soon. As is always the case with diplomacy, the question arises as to how to define success. Peace is one possible answer. And to be sure, peace is well worth preserving on the Korean Peninsula, given the enormous human and economic costs that any war would entail.

But if avoiding war takes precedence over all else, there is the danger that other important interests could well be compromised. There is the danger, too, of arrangements that would lessen tensions over the short term but threaten peace over the long term by requiring real compromises and constraints in exchange for promises and possibilities.

Already there is evidence that neither South Korea nor the US is anxious to demand from North Korea a full accounting of all its nuclear materials and weapons, without which real denuclearization cannot be carried out and verified. The concern appears to be that North Korea would balk at such a request, causing a crisis.

Instead, South Korea has suggested that it ought to be enough for the time being if North Korea simply destroys one or another nuclear facility. The US, for its part, is counseling patience and advising skeptics not to demand too much of North Korea too soon. In both cases, what we are seeing is a reluctance to give North Korea a test that it might fail.

At the same time, the “maximum pressure” campaign has in effect ended, with calls to relax sanctions and a reluctance to enforce fully those on the books. The US and South Korea have also canceled military exercises and relaxed their force posture, respectively, easing the pressure on the Kim regime. This is what defining diplomacy down is all about.

This reluctance to press North Korea, however, points to the danger that Kim’s regime will be allowed not just to keep but to increase its nuclear arsenal. Indeed, North Korea could close or destroy facilities yet never denuclearize if it continues to build capacity at the same time. North Korea will perhaps understandably resist a negotiation in which it is asked to do everything before it receives anything. It will demand compensation, most likely in the form of relaxing economic sanctions, if it were to eliminate any nuclear capacity. China and Russia would surely support such a request. But rewarding North Korea generously for partial measures reduces its incentive to take additional steps, much less complete the process of denuclearization. The Kim regime is also certain to want to avoid being forced to choose between giving up its nuclear and missile programs, which it sees as essential for its security, and improving its economy, which is essential for social and political stability. It wants to have its cake and eat it: both continued security and greater prosperity. North Korea has been pressing for a declaration of the end of war, an aspirational statement that would signal a common desire to replace the armistice that has existed since the Korean War ended 65 years ago with a formal peace treaty. Again, the question arises as to what North Korea would require in return. Already, its suspension of nuclear and missile testing has brought about an end to large US-South Korea military exercises. At some point, North Korea is likely to ask for a reduction in US troop levels in South Korea.

This risk is related to the focus on denuclearization. Achieving it is an understandable priority for the US, but South Korea must worry as much, if not more, about North Korea’s non-nuclear or conventional military forces that threaten Seoul, home to roughly 20% of South Koreans. The danger is that differing priorities drive a wedge between the two allies, benefiting North Korea. Despite Trump’s tweets and statements, denuclearization is neither a fact nor a certainty. On the contrary, it remains a distant and unlikely goal. The challenge for the US and South Korea is to bring the goal closer without growing apart.

The best way to achieve this is through close consultation, a commitment to avoid surprising each another or entering separate deals, and the forging of a comprehensive agreement on what diplomacy must achieve and what it would require in return. Existing military exercises and economic sanctions should be sustained, until there are significant changes that reduce the North Korean threat. Think of it as defining diplomacy up.

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Some lie and some die: Saudi media and Khashoggi affair

Tarek Cherkaoui

After almost three weeks of denials and blame deflection, the Saudi authorities finally backtracked on Oct. 19, 2018, announcing that Khashoggi died during a “brawl” inside the consulate on Oct. 2 and that 18 Saudis have been arrested in connection with this case. Moreover, two top aides of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), as well as three other intelligence agents, have been sacked.

Regardless of the Saudi version’s dubious veracity, the gruesome murder and likely dismemberment of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which took place on Oct. 2 inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, convey not only a sinister picture of the Saudi regime but also an extraordinarily poor impression of their media.

It should be noted that the Saudi regime has a long history of kidnapping opponents. Luring dissidents to meetings and kidnapping them appears to be a regularly used tactic.

For instance, Naser al-Sa’id, one of the first opposition leaders against the Saudi royal family, disappeared in Beirut in 1979. Similarly, Prince Sultan bin Turki was abducted in Geneva and put on a plane destined to Saudi Arabia in 2003 after calling for reforms in Saudi Arabia. Likewise, Prince Turki bin Bandar Al-Saud, a former police chief, was also snatched overseas in 2015 and rendered against his will to Saudi Arabia.

The tendency to use heavy-handed repressive manoeuvres against Saudi intellectuals and journalists seems to have accelerated since Mohamed Bin Salman (MBS) became Crown Prince. According to The Independent, Saudi authorities planned a similar kidnapping plot against Khaled bin Farhan al-Saud, a Saudi prince living in exile in Germany, just ten days before Khashoggi went missing.

The aforementioned vicious campaign was accompanied by an upsurge in propaganda levels to promote the Saudi regime’s totalitarian line, smear the forces of change, and denigrate their narratives. Ranging from Saudi-owned Al Arabiya news channel to the Rotana Group conglomerate and the Middle East Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), to transnational newspapers, such as the dailies Al Hayat and Asharq Al-Awsat, and the online news portal Elaph, the Saudis have put their media empire at the service of this strategy.

However, despite having built such a massive transnational media empire, media values, journalistic ethics, and press professionalism are not on offer in Saudi Arabia. Suffice to say that Al Arabiya News Channel, which is supposed to be the Saudi flagship media outlet, lost in February 2018 its broadcasting licence with regulator Ofcom in the United Kingdom (UK) after receiving complains that the broadcaster was “violating impartiality code and accuracy in news sourcing”. This is particularly telling, as Ofcom enjoys international respectability for its high standards in maintaining broadcasting codes for programming, with which all broadcasters in the UK must comply.

The Jamal Khashoggi affair is a case in point. The mountain of evidence linking Riyadh to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi was so big that the Saudi media’s fact-free denials for almost three weeks not only turned these media into a laughing stock but also became indictments, as it were, for the Saudi regime in and of themselves.

Instead of providing meaningful information about the disappearance of Khashoggi or even offering substantial counter-evidence that challenges the facts surrounding this affair, the Saudi media’s reaction ranged from total denial and obfuscation to the construction of baseless conspiracy theories.

For example, Jamil Al-Dhiabi, the editor of Saudi newspaper Okaz, stated in an article published on Oct. 9, 2018 that “all those circulating the information about the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi are tweeting in unison almost identical slogans, which indicate that they are involved and accomplices in this crime.”

Another columnist for Okaz, Hammoud Abu Talib, tried in the same edition (9 October) to deflect the blame to foreign entities, affirming that the Jamal Khashoggi case “strongly indicates an intelligence operation prepared by intelligence operatives and journalists handled by the Muslim Brotherhood.” In a similar vein, Al-Arabiya.net quoted the chargé d’affaires of the Saudi Embassy in Lebanon as saying that “the Khashoggi theatrical show is a conspiracy and a plot from an intelligence agency that was designed to undermine Saudi Arabia’s reputation.”

In parallel, the Saudi media also attacked American and international press for their reporting on Khashoggi. For example, Al-Arabiya website downplayed the reporting from Reuters as “full of contradictions”. Similarly, in an editorial entitled “Black propaganda” and published on Oct. 8, state-owned newspaper Al-Riyadh attacked the Washington Post, lamenting that “the latter turned overnight into a platform for vilifying the Saudi kingdom and denigrating its leadership”. According to this editorial, this media flak indicates “the collapse of the credibility of this media institution and its transformation into a paid space to attack the Kingdom”. For this Saudi newspaper, the only explanation for singling out Riyadh in this affair is “the rising hostility between the Washington Post and US President Donald Trump”.

The bizarre editorial line adopted by the Saudi media vis-à-vis the Khashoggi case has brought ridicule to some of the most passionate advocates of MBS, like Thomas Friedman, the columnist of the New York Times. Hosted by CNN journalist Christiane Amanpour on her show on Oct. 18, 2018, Friedman could not but hide his face in disbelief after hearing some of the ridiculous comments by Saudi media outlets.

When Riyadh began admitting at last some part of responsibility in an agonizingly slow process, the Saudi media, despite having blatantly lied to their public and vehemently accused virtually anybody ranging from the Washington Post and Turkey to Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood, barefacedly made a 180-degree turn and offered no apology to their audience or acknowledgement about their pathetic coverage.

All things considered, after spending millions of dollars over lobbying firms and public relations companies, the grisly murder of Khashoggi has tarnished the image of MBS and the Saudi regime for a long time to come. In short, Riyadh has plunged into an international crisis.

However, in the battle to shape the international public opinion, the Saudi media, which had little journalistic reputation — if any — before the Khashoggi affair, has been at best a worthless fig leaf, and at worst an additional source of embarrassment for Riyadh in this case.

 

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Inflation crisis in Pakistan

Ayesha Abdul Razzaq

“Inflation makes the wealthiest people richer and the masses poorer” James Cook

Pakistan is going through many problems but the most significant problem of all is inflation, which is still unsolved. Inflation is common in every country but if it exceeds the normal level, it is consider as high inflation. Middle and lower class people of different countries with high inflation suffered more than elite class people because they cannot cope up with the high prices of basic everyday goods due to small amount of income. Therefore, it is necessary for the government of these countries to control the inflation that ultimately benefited the fixed income group.

According to official news, Pakistani’s has an estimated 2% growth rate which for a country of official population of 160 Million turns out to be approximately around 3.2 Million every year. This rapid growth rate is causing huge pressure on the bread winners who are supporting their families.

Different sectors of economy are affecting by inflation like industries, social sector, government and different classes of people (businessperson, debtors, creditors, salaried class, fixed income groups etc). Inflation can be control by different strategies like demonetization of the currency, issuing new currency, increase in rate of taxes, increase in volume of savings etc.

When economy grows because of increased spending, inflation occurs. When this happens, prices rise and the currency within the economy is worth less than it was before. When a currency is worth less, its exchange rate weakens when compared to other currencies. According to Trading Economics, inflation rate in Pakistan is 5.12% in October 2018 reaching an all time high of 37.81 percent in December of 1973 and a record low of -10.32 percent in February of 1959.

When inflation increases, the prices of important essentials also increase. Pakistan faces high inflation in 2018, which raise the prices of basic goods. Recently, food items saw the highest increase in prices of fresh vegetables 15.3 percent, tomatoes 8.47 percent, fresh fruits 5.76 percent, chicken 4.34 percent, sugar 3.3 percent, meat 1.78 percent, spices 1.68 percent, condiments 1.66 percent, dry fruits 1.54 percent, fish 1.46 percent, beverages 1.42 percent, tea 1.36 percent, and milk products 1.2 percent. In addition, the global crude oil prices increase all over the world, which influenced the consumers of Pakistan. The slight increase in the inflation is mainly due to increase in oil prices in the past few months.

Education and health indices rose by 12.99 percent and 5.01 percent respectively on a year-over-year basis while a decline of 17 percent was witness in the index of alcoholic beverages and tobacco. Clothing and footwear prices rose by 6.98 percent while that of water, electricity, gas and other fuels by 5.46 percent. The rupee was recently depreciate, which will also reflect in the prices of imported goods in the next couple of months.

According to a recent World Bank (WB) report, 80% Pakistanis are affecting due to the food inflation because the daily income of more than 80 per cent of the population is less than 2 dollars. According to this, it is impossible for common people to afford basic necessities like food because of inflation. It is also heartfelt to know that rich people spend 10 to 15 percent of their income on food, middle class people spend 30 to 40 percent and poor people spend almost 70 to 80 percent of their income on food.

It would be a challenge for the government to restrict the inflation. The State Bank of Pakistan’s projection showed that average headline inflation for FY19 is expected to cross the 6.0 percent annual target. The government has set inflation target at 6 percent for the ongoing fiscal year 2018-19.

There are different techniques that the government should use to control inflation; every method has different effects, some work well some didn’t. For example, controlling inflation through wage and price controls can cause a recession and cause job losses.

The most used technique of controlling inflation is through a contractionary monetary policy. The purpose of a contractionary policy is to reduce the money supply within an economy by declining bond prices and increasing interest rates. This helps reduce spending because when there is a limited amount of money to go around, those who have money want to keep it and save it, instead of spending it.

The second method is to increase reserve requirements on the amount of money banks are legally required to keep on hand for covering withdrawals. The more money banks are required to hold back, the less they have to lend to consumers. If they have less to lend, consumers will borrow less, which will decrease spending.

The third tool is also directly or indirectly reduced the money supply by performing policies that encourage reduction of the money supply. Calling in debts that are owed to the government and increasing the interest paid on bonds so that more investors will buy them.

New PTI government should also take initiative to reduce inflation in Pakistan because majority of people are middle or lower class people and for them inflation is a big crisis. It also effects other sectors which are suffering from high inflation.

 

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Tashkent pursues partnership with Putin on power plants

Najam Abbas

Tashkent has embarked on an approach to open up the country for wider cooperation with its immediate neighbors, countries in the region, and in its wider surroundings. Departing from the self-imposed isolation practiced by late President Islam Karimov between 1991 and 2016, the country’s current President Shavkat Mirziyoyev is probing a new paradigm of partnership through which he seeks to capitalize his outreach gestures to be preferably matched by Moscow by an outpouring of investment as well as a steady transfer of technologies and know-how.
Agreements reached between Russia and Uzbekistan over the past two years aim to create a legal basis for bilateral cooperation for the peacetime use of atomic energy which envisages: (1) the creation and development of infrastructure and training for Uzbekistan’s domestic nuclear power industry; (2) the construction of nuclear power plants and research reactors, as well as extending support throughout the operational period, (3) the exploration and development of Uzbekistan’s uranium deposits following the survey of its mineral raw material base; (4) recycling of uranium by-products; and (5) production of radioisotopes and their use in industry, medicine and agriculture, scientific and basic research.
As a country with a dynamically growing population, the demand for electricity is rising every year for 33 million people in Uzbekistan.
Taking into account the energy challenges the country faces in the long term, the nuclear power plant will create “an opportunity to diversify the energy balance”, according to the Uzbek sources, citing the Russian Ambassador to Uzbekistan Vladimir Tyurdenev in Tashkent.
The nuclear power plant is expected to meet up to 20 percent of the energy needs and will free up to an equivalent of 4 billion cubic meters of gas spent for producing electricity for domestic and regional markets to allow substantial earnings annually.
In this way, Uzbekistan, a Uranium-producing country, is seeking Russian cooperation to move further in technology, assure the transfer of know-how, build scientific capacity, and prepare the required personnel for the future. Under the agreement, Russia will help train the Uzbek personnel, who are needed to support the future demands of the evolving nuclear industry. As a first step, the first 15 Uzbek students — out of 326 applicants — have started their education at Moscow’s Russia’s National Nuclear Studies University. Later, a branch of the Moscow Institute for Engineering and Physics will open in Uzbekistan to train personnel in the nuclear field. By holding the First Bilateral Academic Forum, the two countries are taking steps to expand academic cooperation at a more institutional level. The Russian heads of 80 institutions of higher education arrived in Tashkent to explore partnership possibilities with the heads of 80 counterpart institutions in Uzbekistan.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, in Tashkent for an official visit to Uzbekistan, will be announcing a go-ahead agreement for building a nuclear power plant in Uzbekistan by the Russian Atomic Corporation Rosatom.
The technical plans are being finalized to allow Russia and Uzbekistan to formally sign a detailed contract for the actual construction of the nuclear power plants in spring 2019, the Russian Agency of International Information cited Alexey Likhachev, Rosatom’s head, as saying. Yuri Ushakov, Putin’s advisor, told reporters in Moscow that the plant will consist of VVER-1200 power unit reactors with increased power output — about 1200 MWe (gross) — meeting all the additional safety requirements of generation III + technology as per the intergovernmental agreement.
“The first power unit will be put into operation in 2028,” he added. The estimated amount of the contract is reported to be about $11 billion. The two countries have expressed interest in taking institutional measures to expand economic cooperation. For its part, Moscow is interested in reviving and reactivating the currently dormant defense cooperation to an active level.
The two sides resumed joint military exercises in 2017 — following a 12-year break — as Tashkent took a step to reestablish military cooperation with Russia. However, Uzbekistan may still prefer to form the partnership with caution, but only if minimal obligations and liabilities remains for them. Tashkent tends to be calculating what it can gain the most within the ongoing circumstances to help advance its interest in the most optimal way.
Russia is encouraging Uzbekistan — a state with the largest population and army in Central Asia — to assume an active role to help stabilize Afghanistan to keep the region secure. “With regard to international issues, building up cooperation between the two countries within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization will figure in the meeting as the presidents of Russia and Uzbekistan will discuss steps to help stabilize the situation in Afghanistan,” said Ushakov. Russia has previously hinted about facilitating negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Tashkent is being considered as a possible platform for future negotiations. Ahmed Rakhmanov, a researcher at the Tashkent-based Center for Regional Security Studies, said: “The role of Uzbekistan in Afghanistan’s relations with Russia is very significant. Therefore, Uzbekistan’s cooperation is being sought for future.” Such an initiative is expected to allow Russia to increase its leverage as a peacebroker in the region.
Maxim Vilisov from Moscow’s Lomonosov University claims that “only Russia is best positioned to realistically provide security guarantees in the region. Only it is able to offer ground support there, as it has existing bases and required infrastructure.” Speaking to Russian English-language network RT, Vilisov added that “the United States today has no comparative facilities in Central Asia. While in theory, China could become an alternative defense ally, but so far it has not positioned itself as a security guarantor for other countries.”
This approach reflects a desire among some Russians to lure Uzbekistan back into regional economic and defense alliances steered by Moscow. For its part, Tashkent may prefer to respond with a balanced approach, maintaining its relations with China and the US too.

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Israel throws Assad a lifeline, again

Hussain Abdul-Hussain

It is mind-boggling why the state whose policy is informed by undermining Lebanon’s Hezbollah, has — twice in a decade — thrown Hezbollah’s patron and main supporter, Syrian President Bashar Assad, a lifeline.

Nothing makes sense in the Israeli policy toward Assad. Starting in 2005, the Syrian president suffered international isolation resulting from the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. In 2006, Hezbollah started a war against Israel, a war that lasted for 33 days and caused Lebanon horrible destruction. During that war, the party threw thousands of rockets on Israel, some of which had the imprint of Assad’s Syrian Army on them. That is to say, Assad not only facilitated arms shipments to Hezbollah but also provisioned the party with missiles from his own depots.

And yet, by 2008, Israel started conducting indirect peace talks with the Syrian president, presumably believing that peace with Syria would substantially weaken Iran and its protégé in Lebanon, Hezbollah. Assad exploited these talks to improve his international position. Jeffrey Feltman, the then US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near East and Asia, said at a panel at the Hudson Institute that it was Israel that opened the door for Assad to get out of his international isolation.

Ten years later and after 106 chemical attacks against his own people, Assad is again isolated thanks to his brutal suppression of an uprising against over 45 years of the rule of the Assad dynasty. But with assistance from Iran, Hezbollah and Russia, the Syrian dictator has managed to win back control over most of the Syrian land he had previously lost to his opponents.

In the middle of his indebtedness to Iran, which spent billions of dollars to shore Assad up by giving him military assistance, including instructing Hezbollah to fight alongside Assad’s forces, Israel thinks it can extract the Syrian autocrat from the claws of Iran and throw him in Russia’s lap. By doing so, Tel Aviv thinks it can divide and conquer the alliance between Iran, Assad and Hezbollah.

In an article posted on the website of the Washington Institute for Near East Affairs, Reservist Israeli Colonel Uri Halprin argued that there is no way US Congress will normalize relations with Assad, which will starve his regime and prevent its access to the international aid it desperately needs to manage a razed-down Syria.

Without international assistance, Halprin sees a window of opportunity. He believes Israel should be involved in negotiations with the autocrat “in order to achieve a larger geostrategic goal.” Assad desperately needs money.

America and Europe will never give it to him. Instead, Assad can sell parts of the Syrian Golan Heights, which Israel occupies since 1967, to Israel. The Syrian president will get parts of these heights, but will relinquish the rest and ratify a peace treaty with Israel. Such treaty, according to Halprin, will also resolve Israel’s dispute with Lebanon over the Shebaa Farms, adjacent to the Golan.

The Israeli officer argues that such a plan helps everyone win, except for Iran and Hezbollah, whose fighters Assad will expel from Syria. By undermining Iranian influence in Syria, Israel will benefit, and so will anti-Iranian Arab countries, first and foremost, Saudi Arabia. Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon will benefit because fixing Syria, under Assad, will allow refugees to go back home, and hence lessen the social and economic burdens on these three countries. Europe, too, will benefit from a decrease in the number of applications from Syrian asylum seekers. All nations benefiting from the Israeli plan, as spelled out by Halprin, will have to pitch in to pay for the land Israel intends to purchase from Assad, to the tunes of “tens of billions of dollars”.

Perhaps the richer governments, such as in America, Europe and the Gulf, will have to cough up more than the rest, but the end result is clear: For agreeing to the Israeli blueprint, Assad will get to stay in power and will reap a windfall in the tens of billions of dollars that should allow him to stabilize and rule post-war Syria.

That Assad will show readiness to sit at the table and listen to the Israeli offer is certain. The embattled Syrian autocrat is bloodied, exhausted and broke. He lives in international isolation, and any Israeli effort at peace talks will, like in 2009, recast him as the sole ruler of Syria whom the world should deal with.

But whether Assad would accept the Israeli offer is the most uncertain part of the plan. Judging by Assad’s performance in the past, the Syrian dictator always used such settings to break his isolation. Once done, Assad exited whatever talks and rejoined his best allies, the Iranians and Hezbollah, in stirring trouble in the region and around the world. Why Israel believes that Assad will act differently, this time around, is mind-boggling. Israel has come to the rescue of Assad, time and again. Maybe there is something the Israelis see in Assad that the rest of the Middle Easterners do not see. One thing is for sure: despite all the lifelines that Israel has thrown Assad before, Tel Aviv’s efforts have yet to bear fruit. Assad has always pocketed Israeli help, and persisted in his troubling behavior, which raises the question: How incompetent and misinformed are Israel’s foreign policy makers?