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

January 17, 2012

Impact of an embargo on Iranian oil

    Tuesday, January 17, 2012   No comments

Strait of Hormuz

International news has been dominated by the Iranian issue these days. Not only the nuclear dispute is present front and center, but military confrontation was moved from the threat level to active planning level. In return, Iran put its cards on the table. Any attack on its nuclear facility will force it to attack all parties involved and all military bases in the region. Then, Iran announced that even in the absence of war, and if an oil embargo is imposed, it will close the Strait of Hormuz because it sees such sanctions as a declaration of war. A recent study, published by Chatham House, an influential think tank based in London, discussed the possible outcomes of an EU embargo on oil exports from Iran. The author made five key conclusions:
  • The initial impact is that the EU countries will have to find alternative supplies to replace their imports of heavy, sour crude from Iran.
  • The hunt for alternative supplies will create transitional friction for oil prices. Thus prices for heavy source crude in the Atlantic basin markets would increase and in Asia-Pacific they would decrease as Iran tried to find alternative outlets for the crude originally destined for European markets. 
  • So far the analysis has assumed that Iran simply accepts the EU embargo without retaliation. This is extremely unlikely.
  • There has been much speculation that Iran's response would be to inhibit the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz. This is unlikely. First, any closure would equally damage Iran's ability to export the oil on which its economy is so dependent. Second, serious and credible attempts to close the Strait are in effect Iran's 'big guns' on the issue of whether or not the United States (or Israel) would launch a military attack on      Iran. 
  • A more effective means of putting pressure on Iran would be for the United States to persuade the EU to extend sanctions to financial transactions. An oil embargo alone cannot succeed.

The study remains speculative and overlooks many other critical variables. Importantly, while the author gave ample space to western adaptation to the fallout of an oil embargo, it did not factor in Iran’s ability to adapt as well. The threat of closing the Strait alone increased the prices of oil. An actual instance of violence will devastate the world economy.

The author also estimated that Iran would not close the Strait because doing so would affect its own oil export. That may be true, but that neglects the fact that the closure of the Strait would impact other Gulf States more than Iran. Without the Strait being sealed, Iran’s export would be already impacted by the sanctions.  With the Strait sealed, other Gulf States will be effectively under an embargo as well. Specifically. Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar will not be able to export any oil for the duration of any violence in the Persian Gulf. In other words, 40% of world supply will be impacted; but 100% of the oil export of those three countries will be shut down.

Lastly, Iran’s revenues from oil export are about 60%, relatively high. But the Gulf States dependency on oil export is even higher.

In conclusion, western powers ought to revisit their math and assess the likelihood of imposing more sanctions on Iran would bring about change that would outweigh further damage to the global economy and bring about the desired outcome in terms of Iran's behavior.


January 5, 2012

Turkey and Iran navigate the Middle East tense issues

    Thursday, January 05, 2012   No comments
via RCReadersFeed

Ali Akbar Salihi and  Ahmet Davutoğlu 
Turkish Foreign Minister held a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Salihi, in Tehran and reiterated his fear that the volatile Middle East might be headed for a new Cold War era unless a sectarian rift in Iraq is immediately mended. Ahmet Davutoğlu has urged Iranian officials to cooperate with Turkey in its efforts to stop the Sunni and Shiite sects from clashing in politically-fragile Iraq.
Before arriving in Tehran, Davutoğlu accused “certain actors” in the region of having sought to recreate the circumstances of the Cold War era, and reiterated Turkey's call for “overarching policies” for the region. To emphasized the similarity between the situations in Iraq and Syria, Davutoğlu stressed the “urgent need for solidarity." He argued:

"Turkey and Iran can contribute to a solution in Iraq and Syria. The regional awakening in the Middle East will make us and our relations stronger. We are now laying the foundations of an era that could last a century. States should not base their policies on sectarian and ethnic tensions.”

In a press conference on Thursday Davutoğlu affirmed the close partnership between Turkey and Iran, denying claims that the NATO defense shield Turkey permitted in eastern Anatolia was meant to target Iran, a country the US has made no secret that it labels as a threat. He contended that Turkish leaders trust Iranian leaders:  
“We do not regard any country a threat to us; we confide in Iran and Iran confides in us; the trust is mutual... This is for defensive purposes only. We guarantee that this is not a threat to Iran. We would never take any step that could negatively affect our relations with our neighbor."
The range of topics discussed during the two day visit highlights the complexity of issues facing the countries of the region, especially Turkey and Iran.

Read also:
Axis of... Power: emerging alliances in the Islamic world

January 1, 2012

U.S. sanctions on Iran are answered: announcement of new nuclear achievement

    Sunday, January 01, 2012   No comments
On the same day the U.S. president signed a bill containing new sanctions on Iran, the latter said its engineers have succeeded in producing a nuclear fuel rod, a major achievement for the country’s nuclear ambitions.

Nuclear fuel rods are used at power plants. They contain small pellets of fuel, usually low-enriched uranium, patterned in a way allowing them to give out heat produced by nuclear reaction without melting down. Building one is a technological challenge, which Iran was thought incapable of overcoming.

According to the Iranian Nuclear Agency, the first rod produced by the country domestically has already been inserted into a research reactor, although it did not specify whether the device was loaded with fuel or not.

On Saturday President Barack Obama signed a controversial multibillion-dollar defense bill that contained new sanctions on Iran, which was said to reduce Tehran’s oil revenues and is expected to force the country into making its nuclear program more transparent. An Iranian official, the head of Chamber of Commerce Mohammad Nahavandian dismissed the new sanctions as “unjustifiable.”

In the past several weeks, Iran has been in the news since the Israeli media broke a story that some Israeli leaders were actively drawing out plans for attacking Iranian nuclear sites. Then, mysterious explosions rocked two military sites in Iran before that country announced the downing of a top-secret U.S. spy drone. While the Iranian navy was conducting a ten day war games near the Strait of Hormuz, which Iran threatened to close if U.S. and EU impose sanctions on its oil export, the administration approved a $30 billion deal setting fighter jets to Saudi Arabia.

Without doubt, even if Iran fails to shut down the Strait, any military tension in that region could raise the price of oil to at least $200—a blow to a fragile world economy.

October 17, 2011

CHARTS: Here's What The Wall Street Protesters Are So Angry About...

    Monday, October 17, 2011   No comments

by Henry Blodget

The "Occupy Wall Street" protests are gaining momentum, having spread from a small park in New York to marches to other cities across the country.

So far, the protests seem fueled by a collective sense that things in our economy are not fair or right. But the protesters have not done a good job of focusing their complaints—and thus have been skewered as malcontents who don't know what they stand for or want.

(An early list of "grievances" included some legitimate beefs, but was otherwise just a vague attack on "corporations." Given that these are the same corporations that employ more than 100 million Americans and make the products we all use every day, this broadside did not resonate with most Americans).

So, what are the protesters so upset about, really?

Do they have legitimate gripes?

To answer the latter question first, yes, they have very legitimate gripes.

And if America cannot figure out a way to address these gripes, the country will likely become increasingly "de-stabilized," as sociologists might say. And in that scenario, the current protests will likely be only the beginning.

The problem in a nutshell is this: Inequality in this country has hit a level that has been seen only once in the nation's history, and unemployment has reached a level that has been seen only once since the Great Depression. And, at the same time, corporate profits are at a record high.

In other words, in the never-ending tug-of-war between "labor" and "capital," there has rarely—if ever—been a time when "capital" was so clearly winning.

…read Article

October 15, 2011

Fox News Does not air its own coverage of Occupy Wall Street events

    Saturday, October 15, 2011   No comments
How is this for Fair and Balanced Coverage:
Thus far Fox's only pieces on Occupy Wall Street have been poorly developed hit jobs like this [Clip] one from Bill O'Reilly, in which a producer makes fun of ill-informed children. But when Greta van Sustern attempted a similar stunt later last week, her producer got far more than he bargained for in Jesse LaGreca, one of the more outspoken Wall Street occupiers. LaGreca, who is far from a hippy-dippy rambler, puts van Sustern's producer on his heels immediately, unleashing a blistering assault on Fox News before delivering a well articulated explanation of why he's protesting. In the end the Fox News producer is forced to admit, "Fair enough. You have voiced an important reason to criticize myself and my company." For some reason, Greta van Sustern chose to never air the LaGreca interview.

October 10, 2011

Paradigm Shift: Occupy Wall Street redefines activism

    Monday, October 10, 2011   No comments

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

The mainstream media, analysts, and the so-called experts are struggling to make sense out of the emerging global protest movements. Recent articles published in major papers like the New York Times, Washington Post, and almost all cable television websites contained an assertion that the protesters are leaderless, goal-less, and fragmented. Apparently, that explains their unenthusiastic coverage of these movements.
Politicians from the right have dismissed the protesters calling them “mob,” “ragtag mob,” and “anarchists.” Politicians from the left described them as frustrated youth who want to counteract the Tea Party movement. The same media and politicians did not pay attention to the Arab Spring either. It would seem that the old guard is too slow to adapt to the new reality made possible through communication that is not filtered through special interest groups and powerful individuals.

It is true that the new global protest movements are leaderless. In fact, Tunisian and Egyptian dictators were overthrown by movements that no one person, no single party, no organization can claim being its leaders. In fact, the only person who could take credit for igniting the wave of change in the Arab world, Elbouaziz, died before the fall of the first regime.
The absence of a single leader makes this movement one of the most democratic movements of the modern time. Their single goal, reclaiming human dignity, is the most unifying force. The so-called fragmentation is in fact the transformative power of diversity.

Poor people were told that they have only themselves to blame for not being rich in a free market economy. People were also told that the CEOs deserved the super wages they earn because they do super jobs, because they are men and women of ideas and innovation. But when these same super humans caused the collapse of the world economy, they were bailed out with money that was supposed to be used to help the little guys, the ones thought to be incapable of making decisions for themselves.
This movement is not about one person, and certainly it is not about ideology. The protesters are not partisan ideologues or idealist intellectuals. They are first and foremost daughters, sons, brothers, parents, friends, and neighbors. They are not distinguishable from one another by national borders, gender, color, religion. They are humans. They are the 99% of humans who did not sell their soul to the corporate world. They all share the idea that no institution, no corporation, and no government should be able to strip people of their dignity. They all feel the loss of dignity because they know that,

There is no dignity in being denied work,
There is no dignity in not having health care,
There is no dignity in not having access to education,
There is no dignity in seeing taxpayers' money used to bailout corporations while millions of people are evicted from their homes, and
There is no dignity in a system that pays the many $8.00/hour and the very few $8000.00/hour.

These activists are not institutions or corporations and they don’t believe that corporations are people. The real people are the ones who bleed, sweat, tire, fall ill, and feel. Only when corporations can show that they bleed, feel pain and joy, and go to prison when they commit a crime, should they be considered people.

These activists are establishing a new paradigm for social change—peaceful change. They are allergic to corporate money, they are supportive of small and local businesses, they are protective of the environment, and they are peaceful. These are the pioneers of a new paradigm of activism. They are successful because they are not co-opted by political parties or interest groups. They are the global voices for social justice and human dignity.

* Prof. SOUAIAIA teaches at the University of Iowa. He is the author of the book, Contesting Justice. Opinions expressed herein are the author’s, speaking as a citizen on matters of public interest; not speaking for the university or any other organization with which he is affiliated.

Keith Olbermann Reads The Statement Released By The Wall Street Protesters - 2011-10-05 - YouTube

Photos: Occupy Iowa City event, October 7, 2011.

October 9, 2011

A Tahrir Moment on Wall Street

    Sunday, October 09, 2011   No comments
Will people's encampments emerge in financial districts around the world?

On Saturday, September 17th, many of us watched in awe as 5,000 Americans descended on the financial district of Lower Manhattan, waved signs, unfurled banners, beat drums, chanted slogans and proceeded to walk toward the "financial Gomorrah" of the nation. They vowed to "occupy Wall Street" and to "bring justice to the bankers," but the New York police thwarted their efforts temporarily, locking down the symbolic street with barricades and checkpoints. Undeterred, protesters walked laps around the area before holding a people's assembly and setting up a semi-permanent protest encampment in a park on Liberty Street, a stone's throw from Wall Street and a block from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Three hundred spent the night, several hundred reinforcements arrived the next day and as we write this article, the encampment is rolling out sleeping bags once again. When they tweeted to the world that they were hungry, a nearby pizzeria received $2,800 in orders for delivery in a single hour. Emboldened by an outpouring of international solidarity, these American indignados say they'll be there to greet the bankers when the stock market opens on Monday. It looks like, for now, the police don't think they can stop them. ABC News reports that "even though the demonstrators don’t have a permit for the protest, [the New York Police Department says that] they have no plans to remove those protesters who seem determined to stay on the streets." Organizers on the ground say, "We're digging in for a long-term occupation." Now the world is watching and wondering: Could this be the spark of a "Tahrir Moment" in the USA?

#OCCUPYWALLSTREET was inspired by the people's assemblies of Spain and floated as a concept by a double-page poster in the 97th issue of Adbusters magazine, but it was spearheaded, orchestrated and accomplished by independent activists. It all started when Adbusters asked its network of culture jammers to flood into Lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens and peaceful barricades, and occupy Wall Street for a few months. The idea caught on immediately on every social network, and unaffiliated activists seized the meme and built an open-source organizing site. A few days later, a general assembly was held in New York City and 150 people showed up. These activists became the core organizers of the occupation. The mystique of Anonymous pushed the meme into the mainstream media. Their video communique endorsing the action garnered 100,000 views and a warning from the Department of Homeland Security addressed to the nation's bankers. When, in August, the indignados of Spain sent word that they would be holding a solidarity event in Madrid's financial district, activists in Milan, Valencia, London, Lisbon, Athens, San Francisco, Madison, Amsterdam, Los Angeles, Israel and beyond vowed to do the same.

There is a shared feeling on the streets around the world that the global economy is a Ponzi scheme run by and for Big Finance. People everywhere are waking up to the realization that there is something fundamentally wrong with a system in which speculative financial transactions add up, each day, to $1.3 trillion (50 times more than the sum of all the commercial transactions). Meanwhile, according to a United Nations report, "in the 35 countries for which data exist, nearly 40 per cent of jobseekers have been without work for more than one year."

"CEOs, the biggest corporations and the wealthy are taking too much from our country and I think it's time for us to take back," says one activist who joined the protests last Saturday. Jason Ahmadi, who traveled in from Oakland, California, explained that "a lot of us feel there is a large crisis in our economy and a lot of it is caused by the folks who do business here." Bill Steyerd, a Vietnam veteran from Queens said, "It's a worthy cause because people on Wall Street are blood-sucking warmongers."

There is not just anger. There is also a sense that the standard solutions to the economic crisis proposed by our politicians and mainstream economists – stimulus, cuts, debt, low interest rates, encouraging consumption – are false options that will not work. Deeper changes are needed … like a "Robin Hood" tax on financial transactions; reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act in the USA; implementing a ban on high frequency "flash" trading. The "too big to fail" banks must be be broken up, downsized and made to serve the people, the economy and society again. The financial fraudsters responsible for the 2008 meltdown must be brought to justice and given lengthy prison terms. Then there is the long-term mother of all solutions: a total rethinking of Western consumerism that throws into question how we measure progress.

If the current economic woes in Europe and the US spiral into a prolonged global recession, then people's encampments will become permanent fixtures in financial districts and outside stock markets around the world. Until our demands are met and the global economic regime is fundamentally reformed, our tent cities will keep popping up everywhere.

Bravo to those courageous souls in the encampment on New York's Liberty Street. Every night that #OCCUPYWALLSTREET continues will escalate the possibility of a full-fledged global uprising against business as usual.

A different draft of this article was published by the Guardian online.

April 24, 2011

Are Arab World Revolutions different?

    Sunday, April 24, 2011   No comments
by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

Family members mourn during a funeral for slain anti-government protester Ali Ahmed al Muameen on February 18, 2011 in Sitra, Bahrain. Credit: Photo by John Moore/Getty Images
by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*
When the first demonstration took place in Sidi Bouzid after Tarek (Mohamed) Elbouazizi ignited the Arab revolutions by setting himself on fire in protest, the Tunisian government played down the event claiming that it was a local matter. Two weeks later, the protests became an uprising and spread to most Tunisian provinces forcing the head of the authoritarian regime, Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, to seek refuge in Saudi Arabia.

February 14, 2011

Egypt reclaims its dignity

    Monday, February 14, 2011   No comments

To help make sense of last week's announced resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, I turned to Ahmed Souaiaia, a University of Iowa professor who teaches classes in Religious Studies, International Programs and Law.

• Q: What do you think was the final straw to trigger the recent revolution in Egypt that led to last week's resignation by President Hosni Mubarak?

• A: I am surprised by the quick success of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, but I was not surprised by the launch of the uprisings. Anyone who follows the Middle East news on a regular basis and who takes the time to read the comments on Aljazeera and Alarabia websites would see the disconnect between the rulers and the ruled. The success of the Tunisian revolution, which was ignited by Mohamed Elbouazizi's dramatic self-immolation, was the singular event that pushed the Egyptians beyond the threshold fear and into hope.

The Arab world was the only block of countries to not experience political reform. It was a matter of time, not a matter of whether a revolution would take place.

• Q: What role has the media played in bringing out this transformation?

• A: Social networks have played a major role during the events (updates and coordination), but I am not sure that these tools played a major role in preparing Arab societies for transformative events.

I do believe, however, that Aljazeera television stations have played a major role in shaping public opinion. Aljazeera is the only Arab television channel that is credible enough to be trusted by millions of people across the Arab world. Aljazeera achieved its status because of its consistency. For more than a decade, Aljazeera was subjected to repeated bans by authoritarian regimes, which only added to its credibility.

• Q: What happens next? If Tunisia led to Egypt, what does Egypt now lead to?

• A: That is a little difficult to predict, but if I were to try, I would look at countries whose governments have banned Aljazeera now or in the past. This is not to say that Aljazeera is orchestrating the events, but regimes that ban Aljazeera are afraid of free access to information, they are paternalistic, they have marginalized their citizens, they rule with fear and deception, they assassinate the spirit of belonging in their peoples, and they abuse human dignity.

Another way of gauging where the wave of change is heading next is to look at countries where one person or one party exerts an exclusive monopoly on power: they are the police, they are the judges, they are the legislators, and they are the administrators. They benefit from having that much power, but that makes them the focus of peoples' rage and anger. They are the only available targets for blame, especially in a climate when there is no credit to be gained.

This means that Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Libya and other Gulf states will have to adjust and allow the emergence of civil society institutions and share governance power or suffer the same fate.

The Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions should teach the rest of Arab authoritarians that if they do not reform today, they will go tomorrow just like Ben Ali and Mubarak did. The reform cannot be cosmetic, it must be substantive, real and systematic. The rest of the Arab rulers must cede some power to their peoples or lose it all.

• Q: What should the position of the Obama Administration be right now in regards to the transition of power in Egypt?

• A: Nothing more than a declaration of respect for the will of the Egyptian people. The U.S. administration needs to realize that just as it was incapable of predicting the fall of the Tunisian and Egyptian authoritarians or managing the direction of their transitions, it will be unable to influence the future of these emerging democracies. The U.S. administration must respect the will of the peoples, as I believe most Americans do, and must not dictate the terms of transition. Tunisians and Egyptians have risen up because their regimes stripped them of their dignity.

The U.S. should not remind them of the paternalistic mode of thinking and doing things; dictating did not work in the past and it will not work in the long run. The U.S. administration ought to trust that the Egyptians will do the right thing. The mutual respect that President Obama had promised the Islamic world in his first State of the Union Address must be practiced today with the peoples who rose up against dictators and tyrants.

• Q: If the Obama Administration does decide to take steps to ensure that the next Egyptian government is friendly to the U.S. (including giving access to the Suez Canal and maintaining peace with Israel), does it still have the leverage necessary to take any of those steps?

• A: I think that the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions were uprisings against fear. Tunisians and Egyptians rose up to reclaim their dignity as human beings, as citizens; not as subjects or as helpless children.

Contrary to what many claim, it was not a revolt primarily for bread, jobs, democracy or religion. They rose up to reclaim their dignity.

The U.S. administration can be best served by respecting the Egyptians and treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve. I honestly believe that the millions of Egyptians who have slept in the cold in the streets for 18 consecutive nights, resisted the provocation and brutality of the regime and its thugs, and kept the protest peaceful and orderly, are also capable of respecting the rights of other nations.

I am confident that Egyptians will stand for world peace, but not at the expense of their own dignity and interests. If the U.S. secures its rights, the Egyptian people, represented by democratically elected government, will be a constructive partner and ally. In other words, the U.S. can no longer buy consent and compliance, it must negotiate respectfully.

We now know the fate of trusting one person or one party at the expense of the rights and dignity of people. Kings and authoritarians are destined to go, but the people will remain. For a long-lasting peace and stability in this important place in the world, I advise the U.S. administration to do the right thing, not the expedient thing.

Opinion editor Jeff Charis-Carlson can be contacted at or 319-887-5435.

February 13, 2011

Egyptians are taking their country back

    Sunday, February 13, 2011   No comments

Source: • GUEST OPINION • Press-Citizen FEBRUARY 12, 2011

Three Thursdays ago, I made a bet with one of my students in front of all his classmates: Hosni Mubarak will be out of power in less than 30 days.

Today, I know that I will be eating my pizza soon.

On the third Friday since the beginning of the uprising, at 10 a.m. CST, Umar Suleiman emerged on state television to say, “The Egyptian president, Mohammed Hosni Mubarak, has resigned and handed over the administration of country to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. May God help us all.”

Immediately thereafter, the millions of Egyptians who filled the streets for nearly three weeks hugged one another crying and declaring, “Mabruk! (Congratulations!)”

For 18 days, thousands of Egyptians slept on cold concrete, lost more than 300 of their brethren, nursed the wounds of nearly 5,000 friends, and shared dried loaves of bread and bottled water. On the third Friday, they reclaimed ownership of their country and recommitted themselves to a pluralistic society.

Listening to the reaction of Egyptians to the announcement for which they waited for three weeks, one can sense the rebirth of Egyptian pride and Egyptian citizenship. One can sense that this revolution was not primarily about democracy, it was not about bread, it was not about jobs, and it was not about religion. It was about reclaiming dignity and defeating fear first and foremost.

Soon Egyptians will begin cleaning their streets and mending relationships. They will begin the long and arduous task of rebuilding a nation for every Egyptian. They will begin a new future not just for themselves, but the rest of the Arab world.

The rest of the world should give the Egyptians time to mourn and time to celebrate. They should be given the time to breathe the air of freedom without fear. They should be given the time to find themselves, again.

Egyptians will need to put their house in order and they deserve the consideration to do so without interference and without pressure. Tomorrow, Egypt will be back as a member of the world community that respects others, but more than anything else, respects its citizens.

Ahmed Souaiaia, teaches classes in the department of Religious Studies, International Programs and College of Law at the University of Iowa. Opinions expressed herein are the author’s, speaking as a citizen on matters of public interest; not speaking for the University or any other organization with which he is affiliated.

February 11, 2011

Building civil society institutions in post-authoritarian regimes

    Friday, February 11, 2011   No comments

by Ahmed E, Souaiaia*
Regardless of what would happen in the next months, the year 2011 will enter the history books as the breakthrough year for Arab societies. On January 14, 2011, the Tunisian people ended the reign of a ruthless dictator and with it ended fear. The Tunisian revolution soon inspired peoples of other Arab countries to take charge of their own destiny. On January 23, thousands of Egyptians launched a similar revolt to bring an end to Hosni Mubarak’s reign. There are indications that Yemen, Algeria, Morocco, and Jordan will be transformed with or without protests. The Gulf states, too, will not remain unaffected by revolutions that are not only bringing about political change but also psychological transformation in the soul of Arab citizens; people taking charge of their own destiny and taking full ownership of their state of affairs.

The future of Arab societies is dependent on the transition from authoritarian rule to pluralism. There are many who are calling on the creation of civil society institutions starting with political parties, NGOs, and free press. In fact, just today, it was reported that a group of Saudis formally requested from the King permission to allow them to form a political party. Establishing political parties is a positive change, but it may be placing emphasis on the wrong priorities. Establishing these entities immediately may have a long term negative impact on issues of social justice and rule of law. Replacing one-man Arab regimes by multi parties regimes can be just as oppressive and perhaps more suffocating. Instead, it is argued here that the transition to self-governance can be achieved when the separation of powers takes precedence over partisan power sharing.

Not to suggest that power sharing among various political parties and representatives of interest groups is not a good thing, for it is. But the power sharing model is also susceptible to creating elite that could--and in most cases did--fence out marginalized minorities and the vulnerable groups and individuals.
What is proposed here is to focus the energy of change ushered in by these popular movements to create safeguards that shore up the rule of law, separate governing authorities, and empower watchdog organizations. The first step for establishing stable self-governing societies in the Arab world is to use the transitional period to draft constitutions, subject to popular referendum, that enshrine the independence of the judiciary, the sovereignty of the legislature, and the service-centered authority of the executive power.

To begin by establishing political parties and NGOs before securing the separation of powers is similar to placing the chariot before the horse. After all, one could ask, how effective can a human rights organization be in a paradigm where the judicial authority answers to the executive officer whose agents are generally the main culprits of committing human rights violations? The authoritarian Arab regimes were able to oppress with impunity because the legislature and the judiciary were tools in their hands. They used these branches of government to provide them with legal and legislative covers even as they arbitrarily arrested citizens, tortured political opponents, and misused public funds.

It will be utterly misguided if the new ruling elite that will emerge after these popular revolutions are allowed to create a new paradigm that would give the illusion of pluralistic governance but in reality preserve a power structure that marginalizes vulnerable social groups.

Civil society institutions are strongest when the legal and judicial mechanisms upon which they are founded are sound. Practically, this can be achieved by recognizing the various layers of civil society institutions.

First, constitutional and legal separation of powers must be guaranteed and established in reality. Moreover, leaders must find creative ways to evaluate and tenure judges. The less politics is involved in identifying, reviewing, and conferring tenure for judges the more empowered the judiciary will be in its application of the law and in preventing abuse of power.

The second important layer of civil society institutions consists of the presence of free and independent press. In most Arab countries, there are many news and media outlets that claim to be free and independent. A close examination of the structure of these institutions and the control over them reveal that they are not necessarily free and independent. Media and press outlets in Arab countries are either state owned or privately controlled. The privately controlled outlets include newspapers and other media that are owned by political parties, unions, associations, and businesspersons. While the government controlled media are essentially propaganda tools, the privately held outlets promote the narrow interests of the shareholders and owners. Given that the press’ mission is to inform the public, one can hardly believe that an entity thus structured could indeed fulfill its mission with integrity. After all, how could such an institution faithfully serve two masters—the shareholders/owners and the public?

A free and independent press should have as primary mission the dissemination of critical information to citizens. It should exist to inform and to keep the governments’ dealings open and transparent. That goal cannot be achieved if the media or the press answers to shareholders or to political parties’ leaders. Creative and imaginative ways must be used to categorize and license free and independent press—perhaps relying on a combination of public funding, education, training, and legal regulations.

The last layer of civil society institutions would consist of any and all social groups representing all kinds of interests. This layer will be critical in providing services and empowering minorities, but as stated above, it cannot perform its functions if there is no rule of law or if the branches of government are not separate and sovereign.

Islamic societies are at a critical juncture. They could use this opportunity and build forward looking societies. They have a chance to learn from the mistakes of other societies: they can draft better constitutions, they can elect better leaders, and they can establish stronger foundations for the emergence of civil society institutions. They can turn the disadvantage of their late embrace of pluralistic governance by learning from the mistakes of those who preceded them. They could rely on hindsight to move beyond the shortcomings of older systems. They can reflect on the decades of hopelessness, marginalization, oppression, and denial of basic rights to create inclusive, civil, and proud peoples. They can give meaning to their existence in the clarity of collective wisdom, in the soberness of knowledge, and in the hopeful determination of dreamers.

* Professor Souaiaia, teaches classes in the department of Religious Studies, International Programs, and College of Law at the University of Iowa. he is the author of Contesting Justice. Opinions expressed herein are the author’s, speaking as a citizen on matters of public interest; not speaking for the University or any other organization with which he is affiliated.

February 2, 2010

Under international law and treaties, children should have rights to culture and ancestry

    Tuesday, February 02, 2010   No comments

Haitian children sit in the Canadian run Masion Enfants Espoir orphanage Friday, Jan. 29, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Haitian children sit in the Canadian run Masion Enfants Espoir orphanage Friday, Jan. 29, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz.
It is being reported in the news this week that Baptist missionaries from Idaho have been accused of attempted kidnapping. They were detained as they tried to transport 33 Haitian orphans to the Dominican Republic. The Haitian government contends that the children were not orphans. This is not the first time that children in countries with unstable governments or in war zones fall victims of illegal transfers.
In October 2007, Chadian police arrested nine French nationals as they prepared to fly more than 100 children to France. At the time, Chadian President, Idriss Deby, said, "it's inadmissible in the 21st century. The entire world needs to witness this. We are going to take all the necessary steps, administrative and judicial to shed light on the kidnapping of the children from Chad and Sudanese refugees."
The French aid group, Zoe's Arc, said it had arranged French host families for the children. The group's secretary-general said the group asked host families for $3400 each to pay for the operation's logistics. Most children interviewed said they are not orphans, and their parents are still alive.
Reports of child kidnapping in Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, and Somalia have increased in the last decade. But even in countries with stable governments, too, children are kidnapped and either sold as sex slaves or for organ harvesting.
The danger facing helpless children should make everyone more careful, and that includes those so-called well-intentioned individuals who think they are “just trying to help.” In fact, as a society, we should reevaluate the adoption process and make it more humane and not merely a solution for groups to please their gods or couples to make their families whole.
Undoubtedly, it is a heinous crime that only a deranged, savage individual could commit when they take away children for profit or pleasure. But I would argue that it is still immoral, unethical, and illegal to uproot children from their natural environment under the pretext of providing them with “a better life.”
We can learn more about the ethics and legality of child-uprooting from the well-publicized cases when “celebrities” adopt children from Africa.
Standing in a Malawi court next to the famous singer, the father of the child Madonna wanted to adopt, Yohane Banda, who can barely read or write, said, “I looked directly into her [Madonna’s] eyes and said, “Although I am giving you my son I want you to look after him well as he is the only one I possess. I want you to keep this boy, raise him, educate him - but you have to know he is my son and he is a Malawian.””
When interviewed by the media then, Banda, whose wife Marita, died a week after their son was born, admitted that he did not fully understand what was happening when he went to court to see for the first (and only time) the woman who was offering his 13-month-old son, David, a new life in the West. He claimed that he thought that Madonna will send his son back to him and his country when David is an adult. It must be noted that Madonna was able to adopt a child from a country where the law prohibits adoptions by non-residents.
Other famous and rich Westerners have always gone south or east to adopt children. Angelina Jolie reportedly indicated that she wants to adopt a child from each continent. Considering the wealth of some of these individuals, they can adopt the children of an entire tribe or an entire country if they wanted to do so. But for many, adoption is not about offering poor children from the jungle “a better life;” it is about self-fulfillment.
An African child should not be a ticket to redemption, social rehabilitation, or personal project. A child is a person, with rights to culture, ancestry, family, and identity. It may be the case that a poor child is better off in the West than in the jungle, but no one has the right to make that decision on his behalf.
A child is naturally someone’s son, someone’s nephew, someone’s niece, someone’s grandchild, someone’s friend, someone’s neighbor. A child, (to quote Mr. Banda) is Malawian, Nigerian, Sudanese, Brazilian, Asian, or Chadian. He has the right to a culture, to roots, to ancestors, to identity. A child from African has a right to be named (and keep the name) Adegoke, Buziba, Ngozi, Uzoma, or Zuberi; not renamed to become Edwin, Kevin, Jared, John, or Scott.
Those who are sincere about helping the poor and the needy should be able to help them while keeping them in their natural environment, among their biological relatives, among their friends, among their people.
It is feared that Westerners are seeking foreign children for adoptions not just because it is cheaper, but also because they want a child who will be totally cut off from her roots; a child who will be given a new name, a new identity, and a new reality. A child has rights to her ancestry, roots, and culture. Moreover, the idea that a Westerner is better able to offer an African or Asian child a better life, may be practically and materially true, but it is also is patently arrogant, stunningly dehumanizing, and selfishly opportunistic.
In the U.S., there are thousands of children waiting adoption and since, as it is popularly said, charity starts at home, Americans wanting to adopt should adopt from home. People generally justify favoring foreign children over Americans by arguing that it is legally complicated and financially expensive to adopt American children. It should be. Adopting a child, a human being, is not and should not be a simple matter. And no one should look to Africa and poor countries such as Haiti as the Wal-Mart of adoption either. In fact, the U.S. should pressure other countries to adopt the same standards to protect children and children’s rights.
International institutions, too, should establish laws and instruments that standardize the respect of rights and dignity of children around the world. Among these rights that ought to be protected is the preservation of the cultural and ethnical heritage of the adopted child, including her or his family name.

Most read this week...

Find related articles...