Welcome to the Middle East Today

The Middle East has traditionally been important for the world economy. The Middle East situation today has an impact on all aspects of life in America and much of the world.

Only by understanding the motivations of the various factions in the Middle East can we hope to understand how to promote peace and national security for Middle Eastern nations, Europe, and the United States.

Feb 19, 2017

Israel and American Foreign Poilcy


During the past week, the media began to speculate the outcome of the meeting between President Trump and Mr. Netanyahu regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  The discussion focused on the issue of one or two states solution.

In my opinion, the President provided some suggestions, but Netanyahu smiled and will continue his aggressive annexations of Palestinian lands in the occupied West Bank.  Such policy has been in violation of U.N. Resolutions and International Law.  Prior to the creation of the Israeli State the first Israeli prime minister, Mr. Ben Gorion in a public speech to the Jewish Zionist Community stated that; they should accept whatever the U.N. will give them, it will be the first stage of the implementation of “Eretz Israel” which means greater Israel. 

Since 1948, the Israeli government began to implement that policy.  Such aggression is reflected in the following:
1. Israel, has demolished more than 600 Palestinian villages
 2. Israel, demolished thousands of homes in the occupied West Bank since the 1967 war,  3. Israeli government built more than 350 Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, where more than 450,000 Jewish Settlers are living.
 4. Hundreds of homes were demolished in East Jerusalem which led to more than 222,000 Jewish settlers living in East Jerusalem.
 5. Israel annexed more than half the Palestinians lands. Such aggressions are an act of violation which the Israeli government committed since 1948, and is in total violation of the U.N. Resolutions and International law. 

This type of political conflict took place with the direct and indirect support of the American Government.  The U.S. used its veto power at the U.N. security council more than 50 times to prevent the passages of any resolutions against Israel.  It is of interest to notice that only in the last two weeks of his presidency, President Obama allowed the passage of one resolution condemning Israel for its aggression in the West bank. 
 He instructed the U.S. representative not to veto a resolution that was supported by a majority of the member in the U.N. security council condemning Israeli violation of increasing settlements in the occupied lands. 

American Foreign Policy especially in the Middle East, since 1948, has been a major contributing fact to the rise of International

Jan 14, 2017

Corruption

Corruption is considered to be a global universal cultural trait. The United Nations Transparency International estimated the global corruption to the public at $1.4 Trillion per year. The Middle East and North African countries share was estimated at $400 billion per year.
            Egypt is ranked at the Transparency Scale 68 out of the 168 countries.
I am not surprised at such ranking. The Egyptian press almost on a daily basis refers to corruption cases in both the public and the private sectors. Unfortunately, corruption takes place at all government levels. Former president Mubarak, his two sons and a group of corrupted high government officials  are well known to the public, which is known as the Swiss Banks Frozen Funds which exceeds one billion Euros.
            Another classic example is the latest and big corruption scandal committed by two high rank government officials. One committed suicide while in jail and the other, Gamal Al Laban, whose large amount of money found in his house was confiscated by the government.  It was estimated at 24 million Egyptian pounds, 4 million USD, 2 million Euros, and 1 million Saudi riyal. Such large amount of money is collected as bribes through government contracts.
            Recently, the minister of interior issued the yearly report on corruption. The report revealed that the number of crimes committed during the year 2016 was 1400 criminal corruption cases. The criminals are being prosecuted for financial bribes and other administrative crimes.
            Such crimes increased by 61% during 2016 by comparison to 2015 according to the report. Furthermore, another report by the “Partnership Association Transparency”  revealed that 51 cases of corruption were committed by government officials during the month of December 2016.
            The daily cases reported by the Egyptian press regarding corruptions  reflects that the legal system is not adequate enough to discourage such illegal acts. Strong legal indictments, even death, should be implementable. Such harsh penalty might not stop corruption totally, but it will decrease it.

Jan 8, 2017

Special Government Departmental Funds

Recently the Treasury Department sent a report to the Egyptian parliament regarding the special financial boxes. During the past few years, there has been so much talk in public about public officials misusing that fund. The money in such boxes is not part of the yearly government budget. The report sent to parliament estimated the money at 52 billion Egyptian pounds in 7,282 special boxes. The best and most effective policy for such funds is to close such boxes and allocate the 52 billion pounds to build badly needed schools all over Egypt.
According to the Ministry of Education, there are over 47,000 schools in Egypt, and many are unfit as a place for learning. Furthermore, he stated that Egypt needs to create more than 50,000 new classrooms to cut the number of students per classroom by half. He said that the number of students at present per classroom exceeds 140 students. Such a situation will lead to poor education and an increase in the illiteracy rates. There are hundreds of villages with no schools. I have seen some schools with no roofs, windows, or even chairs for students to sit on.
            No society will progress economically and socially without a progressive education system which should be available for every person. The situation of the educational system at the lower level reflects a disgrace for the society at large due to the meager government budget allocated to education.
Special Government Departmental Funds

Recently the Treasury Department sent a report to the Egyptian parliament regarding the special financial boxes. During the past few years, there has been so much talk in public about public officials misusing that fund. The money in such boxes is not part of the yearly government budget. The report sent to parliament estimated the money at 52 billion Egyptian pounds in 7,282 special boxes. The best and most effective policy for such funds is to close such boxes and allocate the 52 billion pounds to build badly needed schools all over Egypt.
According to the Ministry of Education, there are over 47,000 schools in Egypt, and many are unfit as a place for learning. Furthermore, he stated that Egypt needs to create more than 50,000 new classrooms to cut the number of students per classroom by half. He said that the number of students at present per classroom exceeds 140 students. Such a situation will lead to poor education and an increase in the illiteracy rates. There are hundreds of villages with no schools. I have seen some schools with no roofs, windows, or even chairs for students to sit on.
            No society will progress economically and socially without a progressive education system which should be available for every person. The situation of the educational system at the lower level reflects a disgrace for the society at large due to the meager government budget allocated to education.

Foreign Political Interference

During the past few months, prior to the election of the United States president, the mass media was focusing on Russian interference in the American election. The Los Angeles Times reported (1/17/2017) that president Obama slapped Russia for meddling in the United States presidential election. He ordered dozens of Russian diplomats to leave the United States.
            It is of interest to notice that what the Russians have done was not unusual by comparison to what the United States has been doing for many years. The United States has a long history of attempting to influence presidential elections in many countries. According to database amassed by D. Levin of the Carnegie Mellon University, the United States interfered 81 times in the presidential election of foreign countries between 1946 and 2000.
            In my judgment, such political interference by the United States government is still going on. I have witnessed the American interference in the presidential election in Egypt during 2013. The United States was supporting Dr. Mursi who was the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, against General Shafik. According to the Egyptian press, the United State ambassador, A. Peterson, called Shafik and told him he was not the winner. The result of the election was delayed several days. At the end, Mursi was declared as the elected president. Nevertheless, most Egyptians were aware that Shafik was the winner.

Nov 16, 2016

Major Problems Facing the Egyptian Economy


Egypt recently requested a $12,000,000,000 USD loan from the International Monetary Fund to be paid back in three years. On November 11, 2016, the request was approved, and the first payment to Egypt, totaling $2.75 USD, will be delivered on November 15, 2016. Furthermore, the Egyptian government has already implemented the conditions imposed by the bank. These conditions include floating the Egyptian pound and cutting subsidies on fuel. However, while the government has not totally removed fuel subsidies, they have increased the price, which will save $22 billion E. L. annually, finally helping to decrease the budget deficit that has persisted for over forty years. The fuel subsidies will be totally removed.

Due to the lack of economic development during the forty-year period prior to the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, the government continued to borrow money to provide basic services.

Recently, the Egyptian Census Department estimated the national debt at 2.3 trillion E.L and the foreign debt at $68 billion. The yearly interest on both debts is 290 billion E. L per year which is the largest portion of the $930 billion E. L. government budget. The second largest portion of the government budget is 230 billion E. L. in the salary of seven million government employees.

The third largest portion of the budget is the 210 million E. L. subsidies towards fuel and food. The subsidies were originally initiated to help the poor population in Egypt, but they are the ones who benefit the least from them. Recently, Abou Baker al-Jundi, Director of the Egyptian Census Department, stated that 77% of the wealthy people in Egypt possess ration cards while only 6% of the most poverty-stricken have no ration cards. The food subsidies are a waste of government money that ought to be reformed so that the truly destitute can get the help they need. Similar situations conform my view on the fuel subsidies. There are more than 9,000,000 privately owned cars. That segment of the population is relatively small; their cars should not be subsidized. Furthermore, fuel subsidies for industry and electrical power should be evaluated.

The forth largest portion of the government budget is 200 billion E. L. to provide services to education, health services, housing, transportation, agriculture, water, and sewage services. The services provide in these varied sectors is deplorable due to the meager money provided. For example, it is sad to say that the quality of education is very poor by any reasonable standard, as evidenced by government reports that over one third of the Egyptian population is illiterate. According to the minister of education, the problems that dominate the educational institutes are the result of forty years of the government ignoring necessary basic reforms. He pointed out that the number of students per class in many schools exceeds 140. In order to cut the number of students in class, the government needs to create more than 150,000 new classes, which could reduce the class sizes by up to half.

Such a negative situation is also prevalent in all sectors of Egyptian society. Among the major factors which contributed to the economic difficulties the government is facing is the high rate of population growth. According to a recent report issued by the Egyptian Census Department reveals that Egypt's population has reached 94 million and is projected to exceed 102 million by 2020. Egyptian population grows at a rate of 2.5% per year, meaning 2.6 million new mouths to feed each year. An urgent and effective program of Family Planning and Birth Control is badly needed to stop the deterioration of the economy. Such an idea is hardly novel. It began in the 1930's, and was officially supported after the Revolution of 1952. Nevertheless, while the program was not successful at the time, it must be re-implemented. Despite the progress which has been achieved during the past two years under the leadership of President el Sessi (especially in the areas of power production, road and house constructions and completing the Suez Canal project) the national economy remains stagnant. Nearly one third of the population lives below the poverty line and unemployment is exceedingly high. The government so far has failed to focus on industrial development. There are more than 4,000 factories that have closed with no attempt to revitalize them. Furthermore, a rise in importation and fall in exportation has led to a heavy decline in foreign currency in the central bank.
Recently, government officials reported that imports exceeded $40 billion per year, and exports decreased to $18 billion. Such a policy increased the rate of inflation which led to higher prices and shortage of basic food items such as rice and sugar.
The trade policy is influenced by traditional corruption policies that has been going on for more than forty years.

The loan granted to Egypt will enable the government to meet its obligations to pay some of its foreign debts, but it will not revive its economy. Egypt needs a major economic plan made by expert economists to save its economy, which still requires heavy financial investment and time before the economic wheel will start turning.

Oct 21, 2016



The Use of Gold as Reserve to Support the Egyptian Pound




Arab Net News reported (10/19/2016) that the Egyptian government is shipping to Canada its monthly gold production of 344KG from the Sukari mines to be purified and sold in the world market.
The Sukari mine of Egypt is classified as one of the ten largest gold mine in the world.
In some western countries such as the US, gold has been kept as reserve to back up the security and value of the dollar in the world market.
The Egyptian pound value in the Egyptian market as well as in the world market has been decreasing steadily especially in the last few years. One of the reasons is the fact that the number of US dollars in the Egyptian Central Bank has been decreasing substantially. Presently, the official rate of the US dollar is equal to 8.83 LE, while the value of the dollar in the black market is almost double the official rate (1 dollar equals 15.50 LE).
Egypt is exporting a small amount of gold. The question to be asked why doesn’t the Egyptian government put some of that gold in reserve to back up the value of its currency, and to stop decreasing the value of its pound.
This devaluation of the Egyptian pound is having an impact on the Egyptian economy. It led to an increase in the cost of living, a situation that the public is objecting to.  

Sep 9, 2016


The 8th of September- International Literacy Day

The United Nations (UN) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), designated September 8th of each year to celebrate and remind people around the world to eliminate illiteracy.

Many countries worldwide have succeeded in doing so, while other countries have a long way to go.

Unfortunately, the Arab world, which consists of twenty-two states, still has high illiteracy rates.  More than 100 million people in the Arab world out of 400 million are classified as illiterate. However, the illiteracy rates among Arab states fluctuate. States with smaller population size in general tend to have high literacy rates such as Tunisia, the Emirates, Lebanon, and Jordan. Most of the states with large population size such as Egypt, Sudan, Morocco and Yemen, have a high illiteracy rates.

For example, Egypt, where one fourth of the Arab population resides, has one of the highest illiteracy rates. Egypt population now exceeds 94 million people, and more than one third are classified as illiterate.

Egypt has more than 47,000 schools, but many are unfit as places of learning. Furthermore, many of these schools run on a two-shift basis daily to accommodate children of school age. Keep in mind that Egypt adds 2.6 million newly born babies to its population per year.

Recently, the minister of education stated publically that the government needs to create more than 40,000 new classrooms to cut the number of students per classroom by half. In some of the classes, the enrollment exceeds 175 students.

Regrettable to say, education in the Arab world is not classified as priority one task. The political leadership has failed to come up with a strategy to eliminate illiteracy. For that and other reasons, many countries around the globe are progressing, while the Arab world is regressing.