Showing posts with label Dissent. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dissent. Show all posts

December 8, 2016

UK's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson comments anger the rulers of Saudi Arabia, forcing Downing Street to distance itself from his views

    Thursday, December 08, 2016   No comments


When the British government is forced to choose between factual truth and political imperatives, it chose politics


The UK's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson stated a fact almost universally known by now. He pointed out that Saudi Arabia is fomenting sectarian war in the region. Saudi officials were angered by the comments and Saudi media accused British media of having an Iranian bias when reporting his comments.
Saudi rulers’ unhappiness with UK media is not specific to this particular instance. They are threatened by the rise in news stories portraying the Saudi military campaign in Yemen in a negative light. BBC had several programs that put the blame for the horrific conditions of children in Yemen on Saudi Arabia. Moreover, UK media in general is highlighting the hypocrisy of UK government, which criticizes Saudi War in Yemen, but keeps selling weapons that enable the rulers of the kingdom to conduct its destructive war in Yemen.
In its attempt to manage this crisis, especially that UK premiere was a guest during the GCC summit in Bahrain, Downing Street was forced to release a statement distancing itself from Johnson’s views.
Johnson’s comment is just one in many negative statements made by Western leaders, in the last two years, accusing Saudi Arabia of spreading an extremist interpretation of Islam

and supporting terrorist groups around the world. Outgoing U.S. president, Barack Obama made the case against Saudi Arabia in a 90-page long article summarizing his views in The Atlantic. Last summer, German intelligence officials also accused Saudi Arabia of building Islamic centers in the West that promote Wahhabism. The incoming U.S. administration will likely take a harsh stance against Saudi Arabian leaders as well.
In short the Saudi rulers must reform their political and religious institutions to be able to live in peace with their neighbors or risk crippling isolation.



September 19, 2016

Standing with Syria, Where The Black Left Should Be

    Monday, September 19, 2016   No comments
The destruction of Syria
by Margaret Kimberley*

American and NATO aggressions must be opposed wherever they surface in the world. That statement ought to be the starting point for anyone calling themselves left, progressive, or anti-war. Of course the aggressors always use a ruse to diminish resistance to their wars of terror. In Syria and elsewhere they claim to support freedom fighters, the moderate opposition and any other designation that helps hide imperialist intervention. They label their target as a tyrant, a butcher, or a modern day Hitler who commits unspeakable acts against his own populace. The need to silence opposition is obvious and creating the image of a monster is the most reliable means of securing that result.

May 26, 2016

Kurds One Hundred Years after Sykes-Picot

    Thursday, May 26, 2016   No comments
by Mohammad Ali Dastmali*

About one hundred years have passed since the conclusion of the Sykes-Picot Agreement and now neither Sykes is alive nor Picot.

Britain’s Sir Mark Sykes and France’s François Georges-Picot started a saga through conclusion of a short and apparently simple agreement, which later on affected the lives of many peoples and nations in the Middle East and became a turning point for determining the fate of Turks, Kurds, Arabs, Palestinians and other people in the Middle East.

May 25, 2016

#IslamicSocietiesReview : The end of political Islam starts in Tunisia

    Wednesday, May 25, 2016   No comments
#IslamicSocietiesReview Comment:  
Adjusting to domestic, regional, and international challenges, Ennahda, the leading Islamist movement in North Africa, charted a new path that embraces pluralism and co-existence. Recalling that the rise of political Islam was necessitated by tyranny and oppression, Ennahda, now, embraces politics and honors Islam, but not mix them. Its leadership has chosen to distinguish between the ethical/theological and the political. In doing so, Ennahda has all but repudiated the actions taken by the Muslim Brotherhood which wanted to dominate the political and social life in Egypt. Realizing the enormity of the transition, Ennahda opted to re-elect its founder, Rached al-Ghannouchi, president one more time. Should he manage to keep the movement united and prevent it from bleeding members to militant Salafi groups, Ennahda would be a model for Arab countries' religious movements.
Underscoring these challenges, Ghannounchi delivered a key address to the movements' members; below is the original speech and a translation.

February 25, 2016

Saudi Arabia’s Impracticable Alliances

    Thursday, February 25, 2016   No comments


Saudi Wahhabism at home and abroad and the arrogation of Islam

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia *




Abstract: Before WikiLeaks released the Saudi diplomatic cables in 2010, the rulers of Saudi Arabia had cultivated the image of being deliberate, moderate, and averse to confrontation. Since the start of 2011, the Saudi rulers have behaved in ways that annulled that perception. The Saudi rulers hosted the Tunisian dictator and refused to extradite him to face criminal and corruption charges, criticized the U.S. for not standing by Hosni Mubarak, turned down a coveted seat on the UNSC, sent its armed forces to crush a peaceful protest in Bahrain, armed Salafists to overthrow the Syrian government, engineered a political coup that displaced the democratically elected prime minister of Iraq--Nuri al-Maliki, and launched a brutal war on Yemen committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in the process. Days before beheading a religious leader who spoke against the oppression of Shias, the deputy crown prince and minister of war of the kingdom announced the creation of an “Islamic military coalition,” consisting of 34 countries to combat terrorism. These are not the actions and temperament of deliberate, moderate leaders. These are the actions of impetuous, nervous, and paranoid autocrats who seem to be running out of options as their internal, regional, and global allies abandon them.

January 8, 2016

Journalism and media in Islamic societies in conflict zones

    Friday, January 08, 2016   No comments


al-Sharq al-Awasat coverage
Journalism in Arab countries: With the increased violence and potential for sectarian war in the Middle East, one would think that the media and journalists would pay more attention to details, facts, and the language they use to report about the death and destruction in that part of the world. Instead, journalist and the media in general sided with their benefactors or religious/ethnic community, betraying the profession and their duty to objectively inform the public.

Al-Sharq al-Awsat, which wanted to be the New York Times of the Arab world showed its true identity: the mouth piece of the rulers of Saudi Arabia. Aljazeera, whose funders wanted it to be the BBC of the Arab world, resigned to its limited true function: serving the Qatari ruling family and its political allies—the Muslim Brotherhood and Turkey. Alarabiya has become the Fox News of the GCC ruling families. Alahram serves Sisi… and the list goes on. 

Here is an example of the kind of headlines the “professional” journalists at al-Sharq al-Awsat ran recently:

July 30, 2015

Beyond terrorism: Sousse attack, economic development, fair trade, and dignity

    Thursday, July 30, 2015   No comments
by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*


The intent of those who planned and carried out the recent terrorist attack in Tunisia and the reactions to it, both underscore the idiosyncratic connections between economic development and terrorism. Importantly, the attack ought to remind us of the global nature and imperatives, not only of ISIL’s brand of terrorism, but also of economic development. Both problems, terrorism and lack of economic development in the Global South, must be confronted cooperatively, because European countries were indeed involved, directly and indirectly, in creating the kind of conditions that weaken their southern neighbors’ economies, which in turn have created the kind of environment most suitable for terrorism.


Zakaria Hamad
When 30 British citizens vacationing in the city of Sousse, Tunisia, were killed along with three Irish, two Germans, one Belgian, one Portuguese, and one Russian, the Foreign Office ordered all but essential travelers to leave that country immediately. Habib Essid, Tunisia’s Prime Minister, said that his government would help to evacuate approximately 3,000 Britons, but told Tunisia’s parliament that he was “dismayed by the advice from the Foreign Office.” The Tunisian government said the UK “was damaging the country’s economy,” which is heavily reliant on tourism, and may end up inadvertently fueling poverty and therefore terrorism. Oliver Miles, a former UK ambassador to Libya and Greece “found the [UK]’s response puzzling.” Other commentators and international affairs analysts contended that Britain was “wrong to bring tourists home” because it would weaken the only true emerging democracy in that part of the world.

August 8, 2014

The paradoxical nature of religious and ethnic states and the genocidal impulses

    Friday, August 08, 2014   No comments

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*
 
The Arab Spring that freed some of the peoples of the Middle East from state imposed fear produced an existential challenge for increasingly heterogeneous communities, forcing people to define the nature of the state and the character of the country where they live. It is true that self-rule and self-determination require a sense of self. However, building stable countries in the new Middle East is tied to the peoples’ level of awareness of the genocidal impulse espoused by certain social groups amongst them. 

The old Middle East was built on an artificial foundation imposed by Western colonial and protective powers in the form of superficial liberal thought, imported Marxist ideas, petty ethnic identities, niggling tribal structures, and a variety of downwardly managed and imposed ideas. The regimes and political forces of the pre- and post-colonial periods exerted virtual monopoly on governing institutions in most Arab countries. During the second half of the twentieth century, Islamists, like the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates, began to challenge nationalist, monarchical, and clannish regimes arguing that Islamism provides a more inclusive political ideology for the peoples of the Middle East than alien ideas or narrow Arabism.

June 8, 2014

Why have many Syrians voted for Bashar al-Assad and what is the U.S. administration’s alternative to elections it does not particularly like?

    Sunday, June 08, 2014   No comments

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*
Syrians vote, June 3, 2014.

Most Western governments and some observers argue that the elections that took place in Syria on June 3, 2014 were not legitimate because not all Syrians were able (or willing) to participate, they were held under war conditions, and Syrians were coerced into voting for the current president. These would be reasonable arguments if they were consistently applied. A brief examination of similar cases and relevant facts reveals that this is not the case.

April 13, 2014

Is Ukraine becoming for the West what Syria has been for Russia?

    Sunday, April 13, 2014   No comments





Riding the wave of protests known as the Arab Spring, many Syrians rallied to demand more political and civil rights. Without the hesitancy that characterized their initial reaction to the protest movements in Tunisia and Egypt, Western administrations and some of the Persian Gulf regimes immediately threw their support behind the protesters. Assad’s regime belonged to the so-called non-moderate Arab governments and the protesters offered the West and its allies an opportunity to overthrow it. They formed the “Friends of Syria” group, now consisting of only eleven nations, to provide the opposition with all needed support, including deadly arms, to achieve that goal. After three years of brutal war, Syria’s economy and society are severely damaged and its allies, mainly Russia, China, and Iran have invested a huge political, economic, and military capital to help the Syrian government survive. The Friends of Syria claimed that Assad became illegitimate because he killed Syrians. Assad claimed that he was fighting armed terrorists and thugs.

Now fast-forward to 2013. 

March 9, 2014

Worried for their own security, the rulers of Saudi Arabia expand their own list of “terror organizations” and criminalize dissent

    Sunday, March 09, 2014   No comments




8 years in prison for tweeting
in support of a demonstration
Days after recalling its top diplomats from Qatar, Saudi Arabia published a list of organizations and activities that are deemed criminal and prohibited Saudi citizens and residents from joining or supporting such organizations. The two events might appear to be unrelated. In reality, the latter decision provides the proper context for understanding the former. Moreover, the list and the logic that produced it are intriguing. Here is a summary of the key points of this document followed by a short analysis.
 

October 15, 2013

A Moroccan view on Catalan independence: Madrid's continued support for the independence movement in the Western Sahara is hypocritical when compared with their attitude towards independence movements closer to home

    Tuesday, October 15, 2013   No comments
by Hassan Masiky*
Sahara

Behind Spain’s European veil is a country struggling to deal with its painful history. Catalonians’ quest for independence exposes Spaniards’ agony over Franco’s legacy and the destructive historical ramifications of the dictator’s actions in Europe and North Africa. For Moroccans, Madrid’s opposition to Catalans’ rights to self-determination while Spain supports the same rights for the Western Sahara represents an example of Spain’s’ political hypocrisy and dual personality.

October 1, 2013

Syria's Kurds, hopes and fears: The civil war in Syria has put great strains on the country's Kurdish population. The Syrian Kurds' most powerful politician, Saleh Muslim Mohammad, talks to Vicken Cheterian about their position and future

    Tuesday, October 01, 2013   No comments
by Vicken Cheterian*
Saleh Muslim Mohammad is the head of the Partiya Yekitiya Demokrat (Democratic Union Party / PYD) and the most powerful politician among the Syrian Kurds. The party - founded in 2003, and closely linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a longstanding armed campaign in the Kurdish-majority regions of eastern Turkey - itself has a well-disciplined fighting force of several thousands among the Kurds of northern Syria. During a recent visit to Geneva to meet international organisations, I ask him for his assessment of the Kurds' situation in light of Syria's evolving war.

September 16, 2013

One cannot ignore religion in social policy-making in the Middle East

    Monday, September 16, 2013   No comments
by Rana Jawad*
At long last governments and international development agencies are interested in social welfare and social protection issues in the MENA region (particularly in the Arab and Muslim-populated countries). Ten years ago this was a very different story. No one spoke of the need to protect citizens in the MENA region (except perhaps for the UN Arab Human Development Reports) and government officials did not really know what social policy meant.

But since the mid-2000s we have seen an explosion of new terms such as social protection, social security, social assistance, social solidarity, social integration and new welfare mix in the titles of reports and conference events. But are we any closer towards understanding how social policy systems work in the MENA region, and crucially, what the way forward might be now that the Arab spring has brought issues of social justice and social welfare in MENA to the fore?

May 23, 2013

Tunisia’s security syndrome

    Thursday, May 23, 2013   No comments
By Noureddine Jebnoun*

On May 19, the Tunisian government banned Ansar al- Sharia (Supporters of Sharia), a Salafist group, claiming to be jihadist, from holding its third annual rally in Kairouan – a city located 114 miles south-central of Tunis and which houses the mosque of the general Uqba Ibn Nafa‘a, the “conqueror of Africa” around 670 AD. The “battle of Kairouan”, heavily publicized by the Tunisian media did not occur, despite several clashes between the police and citizens of the same city who protested against the overwhelming police presence as well as the intrusion of the FEMEN movement activist Amina. Her sudden appearance in the city allegedly sought to disrupt Ansar al-Sharia’s congress, ended provoking the sensitivity of the locals while she wrote “FEMEN” on the wall of the graveyard next to the Uqba mosque.

April 4, 2013

The origins and evolution of the Grinch that derailed the Arab Spring

    Thursday, April 04, 2013   No comments
The Pakistanization  of Turkey and the Afghanization of Syria in the new proxy-war

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

Witnessing the first democratic elections in Tunisia in 2011, I stood at the edge of the city listening to residents explaining the role of “neighborhood watch committees” in keeping peace and protecting personal and public property. I listened as my interlocutors told me stories of new connections emerging to create tighter relations between neighbors to face unprecedented violence and loss of security. On a rotating basis, residents, carrying wooden sticks, stood guard at the main intersection separating one neighborhood from another. To them, safety developed a new meaning. Without thinking of the American context (gun control debate) for my question, I asked if they would have felt safer if they had guns instead of sticks and brooms while guarding their families and properties. Without hesitation, one of the people accompanying me stated that he is alive because people did not have guns.  

On February 26 (2013), the Tunisian government announced that three suspects in the  murder of Chokri Belaid had been arrested and that authorities were searching for the person who shot the victim. Ali Laraydh, the current prime minister, stated that “extremist Islamists [islamiyyun mutashddidun] code name for takfiri fighters, were behind the murder. This formal accusation confirms what many Tunisians had said even before the assassination:  Takfiris are behind the violence and unless they are restrained they will continue to use violence to intimidate and eliminate those who criticize them and oppose their interpretation of Islam.

March 7, 2013

Iraqi analysts: Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria mirrors al-Qaeda in Iraq

    Thursday, March 07, 2013   No comments

by Mohammed al-Qaisi
Al-Qaeda in Iraq attacks places of worship, culture and
education deeming them blasphemous, officials say.
 As tensions increase between Syrian citizens and members of extremist group Jabhat al-Nusra (JAN) Iraqi officials, researchers and security leaders warned of similarities between JAN and al-Qaeda in Iraq in terms of ideology and strategy.

"We are monitoring with concern the recent attacks conducted by the extremist JAN in Syria because it is ruining the situation there," said acting Iraqi Defence Minister Saadoun al-Dulaimi. "JAN is turning its attacks on the people, just as al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist groups did in Iraq."

He said attacks on churches and destruction of statues, archaeological sites and sacred shrines bears resemblance to what al-Qaeda did in Iraq in past years.

In February, Syrians from the Idlib town of Maaret al-Numan accused JAN of cutting off the head of a statue in town of the poet Abu al-Alaa al-Maari, who was born there, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

They posted pictures online of a headless dark brown bust riddled with bullet holes, lying on the ground near its former pedestal.

November 25, 2012

Analysis: Recognizing the new Syrian National Coalition alone will not end the war in Syria

    Sunday, November 25, 2012   No comments

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

Those who doubt Lakhdar Brahimi’s assessment of the crisis in Syria ought to rethink their position. His ostensibly naïve initiative for a ceasefire over the Eid holidays might have been a brilliant maneuver that ended the existence of the Syrian National Council, the previously prominent face of the Syrian opposition. Before proposing an ambitious plan of six or one hundred points like his predecessor, Brahimi wanted to make sure that there are reliable representatives of both sides who can exert influence and control over their subordinates. After visiting Russia and China, he proposed, from Tehran, that both the opposition forces and the government stop fighting for four days.

Apparently, he wanted to test the influence of the Syrian regime backers and the political leaders of the opposition (Syrian National Council, or SNC) who accepted the ceasefire. Even the military leaders of the FSA accepted the Eid ceasefire. He was aware that for the ceasefire to hold, the opposition groups must stop fighting. It is one thing to claim control over armed groups by simply supporting their actions, but it is a different level of credible control to actually order these groups to stop fighting and see compliance on the ground. Brahimi wanted actual proof of command and control over armed groups in the form of four days of quiet.

The result was embarrassing for the so-called opposition leaders. During the four-day holidays, more car bombs exploded in crowded cities and more attacks on military checkpoints. Worse, some of the FSA groups used the quiet time to attack Kurdish neighborhoods in Aleppo and other Kurdish majority areas to bring more territory under their control. Deadly fights erupted between FSA fighters and Kurdish neighborhood protection militias, forcing the FSA groups to retreat.

November 18, 2012

Why do Arab rulers want a ceasefire in Gaza but not in Syria?

    Sunday, November 18, 2012   No comments

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

Deconstructing cruelty in Arab societies
On average, over one hundred people, many of whom are civilians, have died every day in Syria for the past 20 months. The Syrian government says that it is fighting terrorists financed by Arab rulers and the Turkish Islamist government. The rebels say they are fighting a non-democratic regime. Nearly twenty other Arab rulers govern without a public mandate. The rulers of Saudi Arabia and Qatar insist that Bashar Assad step down or be removed by force because the Syrian people want him gone. Yet, they ignore the fact that the Arab peoples want them all gone, not just Assad.

For just five days now, Israel and Gaza armed groups have exchanged fire that has resulted in 70 people dead (67 Palestinians and 3 Israelis), over 600 hundred Palestinians wounded, and hundreds of homes and buildings destroyed. Since the firing of the first missile, the Arab rulers have pressed Egypt and Turkey to mediate a ceasefire and called on world leaders and international organizations to act “to stop Israeli aggression.”  The Qatari ruler, the main supplier of deadly weapons to Syrian militias, headed to Egypt to press President Morsi to help end the violence in Gaza. So what gives? Are Arab rulers finally giving up on violence and embracing peace?

January 21, 2012

Class warfare or economic justice?

    Saturday, January 21, 2012   No comments
When Romney resisted releasing his tax records unless he becomes the GOP nominee, the discussion that was started by the Occupy movement found new life. The fundamental issue is fairness in the U.S. economic system—not class warfare, as some would like to characterize it. Many in the Occupy movement believe that corporate influence in the political process unfairly disadvantages working people and rewards greed. One of the areas unfairly influenced by wealthy corporations and persons is the tax code. Many Occupiers want that system reformed.
The 1% have the means to not only influence the debate, but to buy the political leverage necessary to secure favorable outcomes. The absolute majority of the 99% want a fair system that neutralizes these influences. They don't want giveaways from the 1% and they are not opposed to capitalism and private property ownership.

The NYT reported that Mitt Romney, for instance, “has called for keeping the current low rates for capital gains and eliminating capital gains altogether for taxpayers making less than $200,000.” Joe Scarborough, a conservative commentator and former lawmaker, defended the low 15% percent tax rate paid by Romney and other wealthy individuals by suggesting that the money taxed at the 15% rate is actually taxed twice: first it is taxed as income at a higher rate and then taxed again as investment income. That is a disingenuous and misleading characterization of the facts. Here is why:
Let's say a hardworking Joe makes $100,000 a year. That income will be taxed at a rate closer to 35% than to 15%. After years of hard work, Joe saves $50,000, which he invests. At the end of the year, Joe receives a statement showing that he earned $2500 through capital gains, dividends, interest, etc. Only the $2500 Joe earned on top of his original investment of $50,000 will be taxed at the 15% rate; Joe is not taxed at a 15% rate on $52,500 (his original investment plus his gains). So there is no double taxation.
Now let's look at another scenario. John is a software engineer who has worked for Microsoft since the early 1990's. John's yearly salary is about $67,000. But when John was hired, he took the stock option the company offered its employees, which consisted of 5000 shares priced at $5 a share. After more than five years, John was able to sell these shares for the market value of $300 per share (a gross sale value of $1,500,000). The net income (after deduction for cost and fees) is taxed only once, at the 15% rate. Furthermore, it is only taxed the year it is sold, not every year John saw gains through increase in stock prices.
Let's look at a third example. Brinn is a programming guru. He quit school to start an Internet company. His company was so successful he valued it at $1,000,000 and made it a public company. Before the initial IPO, Brinn decided arbitrarily to fix the value of each share in his company at $1. Now Brinn's company is available for public trade, but not before he reserved 500,001 shares for himself and 200,000 shares for his employees or his favorite charity. Brinn is now the CEO of the new public company, too. He decides that he will receive $1 a year in salary, but will receive additional compensation in the form of stock options. 
Because Brinn's company is awesome, everyone wants in. Joe used some of his saved money to place a bid to buy some shares. Before Joe is able to fulfill his order, the price of a single share in Brinn's company jumps to $50. Suddenly, Joe becomes the proud owner of 100 shares costing him about $5000, which drives Brinn's wealth to over $25,000,000. 
Five years later, Joe sells his 100 shares at $100 per share (earning about $5000 on top of his original investment). Brinn, on the other hand, earns $50 million. He will pay the 15% tax rate on those earnings, because he does not have to claim it as earned salary income on his tax return. That is a best case scenario. Another equally likely scenario is this: after five years, Joe is forced to sell his shares to pay for an unexpected event. Although the price of the stock was up at some point near $100, when Joe needed to the cash however, the stock was $48 per share. Joe lost $200 in this investment. Brinn is still $47 per share ahead.

Capital venture investors use a multitude of methods to avoid paying the higher tax rate that 99% of monthly wage earners must pay. Stock options, property reclassification, tax shelters, and charitable donations are just few ways they control their wealth and avoid paying higher taxes. Business professionals have access to tools and knowledge that allow them to find the loopholes they need to pay minimum taxes.

Moreover, corporations and wealthy individuals "tax" the infrastructure, the natural resources, and environment more than the rest of us. They use heavy trucks on our highways and roads to transport their goods. CEOs travel in private jets that pollute our environment while hundreds of us travel crammed in crowded airplanes, buses, and trains. They use more energy in their huge mansions and air-conditioned offices in skyscrapers, while the 99% share fewer resources and use communal services.

In short, the 99% are not asking to take the 1%’s money, they just want a fair system that offers everyone equal access to resources, to public servants, and to the law. The 99% want true equal opportunity.

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