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.

Dec 30, 2009

Sudan: The Bread Basket.

Sudan is an Arab country with a population of nearly 43 million people. It is estimated as among the poorest countries in the Arab world, with "GNI" of $1,130 per person per year. Sudan's agricultural land has been estimated at 200 million Feddan (one Feddan equals 4,200 square meters). Only 40 million Feddan are under traditional methods of cultivation. Also, Sudan relies on the import of foods (Al-Jazeera.net, Dec. 1, 2009). Agricultural experts claim that all of the 200 million Feddan can be cultivated. The soil is rich, water from the Nile and rainfall are adequate, and the climate is more than warm enough for agricultural cultivation. These are important natural ingredients needed for agricultural cultivation. Sudan lacks the know how of modern agricultural cultivation. The lack of availability of financial resources for investments in the agricultural sector of the economy as well as needed financial help to build the infrastructure (roads, bridges and railroads)hinder agricultural development.

During the past few decades, Sudan was known as the potential future Bread Basket of the Arab world. Due to internal political conflicts and governmental corruption in the Arab world, no serious discussion took place regarding Arab investments in the agricultural sector of Sudan. 34 years ago, FAO of the U.N. ranked Sudan, Canada, and Australia as the future Bread Basket of the world (The Economist, May 23, 2009).

During the past few years (2007-2009), food insecurity and world market price turmoil impacted the agricultural sectors worldwide, and created fears in countries that rely on food imports.

Some of the major factors which directly and indirectly created the turmoil and panic are attributed to the followings: the doubling of oil prices in 2008, which was caused by Wall Street gamblers, especially those who were in the commodity sector of the market. Wall Street manipulation created speculation that some agricultural products could be diverted to the production of biofuel, and this will create food shortage. Other factors which contributed to increasing food prices are the decline in agricultural productivity due to global warming and weather changes in certain regions such as the Middle East and Africa.Furthermore, there is less rain and longer drought durations.

Sudan was the best alternative for most Arab states to buy, lease and/or invest in the agricultural sector. The oil-producing Arab countries began to invest in Sudan. A Sudanese official says his country will set aside roughly one-fifth of the cultivated land of Sudan for Arab governments. Sudan, is the "Bread Basket of the Arab world".

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) signed a deal for 400,000 hectares, Egypt has secured a similar deal to grow wheat. Qatar's government set up a joint venture to invest in Sudan, and Kuwait signed a "giant" strategic partnership with Sudan for the same purpose (The Economist, May 23, 2009).

The Arab states are not the only governments who moved to invest in Sudan, but also other foreign states are moving into Sudan for the same purpose: food security.

Arab Countries Outsourcing Foreign Farm Land.

In a previous post it was noted that the Arab world is not food self-sufficient and relied on food imports at a cost of $20 billion during 2008. More than 100 million people in the Arab states do not get enough food to eat. The problem will get even worse in light of continuous population growth, which is expected to reach 650 million during the next 25-30 years. The global weather changes have already created serious environmental problems in the region.

In 2006, the gulf Arab states began to look for farmland beyond the boundaries of their states to buy or lease for the purpose of agricultural cultivation. This is outsourcing farm production that is basically in several African and Asian countries, and that needs the flow of cash. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the Emirates, Kuwait and recently Egypt have already bought or leased farm lands in Ethiopia, Malawi, Sudan, Turkey and Cambodia. Saudi Arabia has already signed an agreement with Ethiopia to lease farmland at a cost of $100 million for the cultivation of wheat, barley, and rice. This year (2009), Saudia Arabia has received part of the first crop of rice, wheat, and barley. What the gulf oil-producing state did is part of an international land grab policy that includes other countries such as China, India, and South Korea. These countries have targeted Ethiopia, Sudan, Turkey, the Philippines, and Indonesia. The International Food Policy Research Institute in the United States (IFPRI) noted that between 15 million and 20 million hectares of farm land in poor countries have been subject to transactions or talks involving foreigners since 2006. This is equal to one-fifth of the farmland of the European Union. These deals are worth $20 billion-$30 billion. The "IFPRI" reported that between 2006-2009, China has obtained 2.8 million hectares, South Korea has obtained nearly 800,000 hectares, the UAE around 100,000 hectares, Saudi Arabia around 500,000 hectares, Qatar around 475,000 hectares, Libya around 100,000 hectares. Land acquisition by investors targeting Australia, Brazil, Ukraine and Vietnam are in process (The Economist, May 23,2009).

There are a number of factors which are fueling the land grab trends. These are: population growth, the shortage of food, the increase in food prices, the potential use of agricultural products as a biofuel source due to fossil fuel price increase and the decline of progress in discovering new sources.

The Arab World Is Not Food Self-Sufficient.

In a previous post, a reference was made that only 1/3 of land in the Arab world is suitable for agricultural cultivation, and that the rest is barren desert. Even that portion under cultivation depends on rainfall. It is also interesting to notice that the global warming and weather changes have already impacted the Middle East and the African continent more than other regions. The Arab world is experiencing less rain and longer drought durations. In addition, most of the Arab states have been classified at the water poverty level. The Arab world as a whole is not food self-sufficient. According to the Arab Agricultural Development Organization, Arab states imported over 75 million tons of food during 2008. The total cost of imported food was $20 billion (Al-Jazeera.net, Nov. 17, 2009).

Despite the costly importation of food, "FAO-UN" noted that there are more than 40 million people in the Arab world who do not get enough food to eat on a daily basis. In addition to this, more than 100 million people are living below the poverty index level (Al-Jazeera.net, Nov. 17, 2009). The degree of poverty varies from state to state in the Arab world. The poverty scale is reflected when we compare the "GNI" per capita, which varies from $38,420 per person per capita in Kuwait, versus $840 per person per capita in Mauritania (World Bank, 2008). The "GNI" per capita of most states with large population sizes tends to be below $2,500 per person per year. Those with higher "GNI" income per capita are the oil producing states in the gulf area with smaller populations.

There are several reasons that kept agricultural productivity low in the Arab world. These are as follows:
1)The absence of long range strategy for agricultural development. The ex-Egyptian agricultural minister Ahmad al-Laithi stated in a public lecture that there is no agricultural planning strategy for the Egyptian agricultural sector (almasry-alyoum, Nov. 26, 2009). Several oil-producing states recently began to look to buy or lease lands in foreign countries to cultivate and ship the produce to their own states (more on this in the next post).
2) No significant fund has been diverted for agricultural scientific research to enhance and increase agricultural productivity. The use of modern technology in cultivation hardly exists, especially in agricultural irrigation, since the availability of water is decreasing. Farmers in general are still following the traditional way of cultivation.

The increasing gap between the rich and poor people, corruption of governments, and foreign interference are among the factors that hinder agricultural development in the Arab world.

Dec 28, 2009

Population Growth in the Arab World

The United Nations sent a warning to the Arab League members telling them that they are unprepared for the effects of population growth and climate change and urged the 22 country group to take action during its meeting (New York Times, Dec. 2, 2009).

The United Nations warning should be a reminder to the top political leadership in the Arab world, who may not be aware that tens of millions of people in their countries do not have enough food to eat on a daily basis. Egypt, the most populated Arab country, started organizing groups for family planning and birth control in the 1930s, when the total population was less than one-fourth its present size of 83 million people. The Arab world population is estimated at 335 million as of 2008. The most critical part is that 60% of the population is under the age of 25 years. Furthermore, the present average number of live births per woman is 3.6 babies, compared to 2.6 babies at the global level. From a demographic point of view, based on the present birth rate, the Arab world will double its population during the next 25 to 30 years to reach at least 650 million people (The National Newspaper, Dec.2, 2009).

What are the consequences of population growth at the present and in the future on these societies, in regard to economic development, employment, housing, transportation, health care, education and food production? In addition to the negative aspects of population growth, there is also the destructive impact of global warming and weather changes on the region. There is less rainfall, more droughts with longer duration and more desertification, less food productivity, and above all, the decreasing availability of fresh water resources in the Arab world. All of these problems should be dealt with, and the sooner, the better.

Dec 21, 2009

Ecological and Environmental Characteristics of the Arab world.

The Arab world stretches from the Atlantic Ocean in the west, through North Africa to the Arab gulf and Iran in the east, Turkey and the Mediterranean Sea in the north, the African Sub Sahara, and southern Sudan in the south. The Arab world covers an area equal to 5.3 million sq. miles, which is comparable to the 3.6 sq. mile size of the United States. Nearly 70% of Arab land is barren desert and it has been classified as one of the driest regions in the world. The 20-25% of land that is under cultivation is dependent on rainfall. In addition to this, 5-8% of the land depends on irrigation from the Nile, Euphrates and Tigris Rivers, all of which start outside the boundaries of the Arab world.
The Arab world in particular, and the Middle East in general, have been impacted by the global increase in temperatures. There has been a decrease in rainfall and an expansion of desertification. The recent international conference held in Copenhagen (Dec. 2009), which focused on the impact global warming has on the planet, ended without an official treaty limiting carbon emissions. These have a devastating effect on the global environment. The Copenhagen conference fell short of the key goal, which was to draft a treaty. The tragic effects of global weather warming have impacted the developing nations in Africa and the Middle East in particular. The damage has been caused by the advanced and industrial Western world and the recently industrialized countries of China and India.
The International Bank issued a report (2007) in which it noted the 48 countries that will be affected the most from the global environmental changes. Egypt was listed among others that are experiencing the negative impact of the global weather changes. Furthermore, the Arab countries are experiencing less rain and more frequent droughts with longer durations, in addition to more agricultural land being overtaken by the increase in desertification.

The State of Knowledge in the Arab World

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP)and the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation initiated a research project to investigate the 'State of Knowledge' in the Arab world. The result of the research was published in the United Arab Emirates. It stated that the 'state of knowledge' in the Arab world is lagging behind, and recommended that Arab governments should seriously address such problem.

Arab governments have been spending 5% of their GPD, and 20% of their general budgets on education during the past 40 years. More than 1/3 of their adult population cannot read and write. This equal to 60 million people classified as illiterate (The Middle East, December 2009).

It is of interest to compare the literacy rates in relation to gross enrolment (2007) in primary and upper stages of basic education between the Arab world and other regions. In the Arab world it was only 81%, while in North America and Western Europe it was 103%, 95% in Central Asia, and 102 in Latin America and the Caribbean region.

The UN report stated that insufficient funding in certain areas of education are needed, such as in the area of scientific research, where only 0.3% of the GPD of Arab countries is being allocated for such research. This will be equal to $10 per capita by comparison to $33 per capita in Malaysia and $1,304 per capita in Finland.

Since their independence, in the late 40s-50s, Arab governments have been preoccupied with foreign wars, and internal civil conflicts. Tens of billions of dollars were allocated for military hardware instead of spending some of it on education and human development.Furthermore, the absence of democratic institutions and transparency, which are two important ingredients for the development and nourishment of a 'state of knowledge,' were lacking.

Dec 19, 2009

Problems and Challenges Facing the Arab World

There are serious problems and challenges facing the Arab world today.They require immediate attention:

1. Global weather change and its impact on the Middle East and North African regions, such as the decreasing rainfall and the problem of desertification.

2. Population growth and its negative impact on economic development. The population is expected to double, 345 million people to over 600 million, the next 25 to 30 years.

3. Insufficient food production in all Arab states. They all rely on food import to meet their basic needs.

4. Shortage of fresh water which caused the Middle East to be among the driest regions in the world. More than 2/3 of Arab countries are classified as water poverty stricken.

5.Official unemployment rate in the Arab world is 15%, which is a very conservative estimate. Some studies notes that at least 100 million new jobs need to be created in the next 25 years for the young generation that will be entering the labor market.

6. Poverty and the high rate of illiteracy which are of major human and economic concerns. More than 40% of the Arab world population are living below the poverty index level , which is 2 dollars per day, per person. Poverty is definitely associated with the high rate of illiteracy. It has been estimated that at least 1/3 of the adult population in the Arab world cannot read or write. This is translated into more than 60 million people.

I will further discuss and analyze the above problems and challenges facing the Arab world. Keep checking my posts for further information.

Dec 16, 2009

School Dropout

In previous posts I have noted that, in general, the educational systems at both the upper and lower levels are poor and way behind other countries worldwide. The educational institutions are graduating students who are not prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.
Recently, the Egyptian Minister of Education, Dr. Yusri Aljamal, stated that there are more than 300,000 students who dropped out of schools in Egypt. He noted that this trend has to stop, because it reflects negatively on the Egyptian society, and that these students have to be brought back to school. Some of these students are without shelter, and must be from poverty stricken homes. They are referred to as "Awlad il-Shawara", which means "street boys". The Minister of Education should be commended for focusing on the problem of school dropouts, which has been going on for many years and is also reflected in the high illiteracy rate in Egypt which exceeds one third of the total adult population. It is unfortunate that the illiteracy rate in the Arab world in general is still high. It varies from 10% to 40% of the adult population.
There are several factors related to students dropping out from schools. First, poverty, which prevails on a large scale in many countries in the Arab world, pressures families to let their children leave school to search for a job. Second, schools are too crowded, and the educational environment does not encourage students to stay in school. Third, there are shortages of trained school teachers where they are needed. Fourth, schools lack professionally trained counselors to help students with their problems when needed. Fifth, the location of public schools, especially in rural areas where distance becomes discouraging factor commuting to school. Sixth, in rural areas, many illiterate parents discourage their daughters from attending schools for obvious reasons. These are at least some factors that influence and discourage students from continuing their education. Nevertheless, those who drop out of schools will pay a high price, and will become a burden on their societies.

Evaluation of Arab Educational Development

Recently, the Arab Association of Intellectual Thinking, "Alfikr al Arabi", in Kuwait, issued its second report. It focused on the development of education and the use of the internet as a mode of communication in the Arab world. The assocation used a scale from 1 to 7 to assess the level of progress in a selected few educational areas in various Arab countries.

1)The Use of the Internet

Egypt scored 4.68 out of 7 in the use of the Internet to conduct its commercial and trades activities, and ranked number one in the Arab world, follwed by the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Qattar. However, Egypt ranked 36 on the world scale.

2) The Use of the Internet in Schools, Goverment, and Private Offices

The United Arab Emirates scored 6.05 on the scale and ranked number one in the Arab world and 5th worldwide. Egypt scored 5.18 on the scale and ranked 32 worldwide. Morocco scoared 4.14, the lowest among the participating Arab states and ranked 111 worldwide.

3)Innovation and Creativity in Relation to the Population Size

Kuwait ranked number one in the Arab world and 37 worldwide. Egypt ranked 5th in the Arab world and 71 worldwide.

4) Freedom of the Press

Kuwait ranked number one in the Arab world and 59 worldwide.

5) Educational Development in Terms of Excellence and Creativity

Saudi Arabia ranked number one in the Arab world and 7th worldwide. Egypt ranked number 7 in the Arab world and 85 worldwide.

6) Allocation of Financial Resources to Educational Development

Saudi Arabia ranked number one in the Arab world and 8th worldwide. Egypt ranked 4the in the Arab world and 59 worldwide.

7) The Quality of Education

Qatter ranked number one in the Arab World and 16 worldwide. Egypt ranked 13 in the Arab world and 126 worldwide.

8) Financial Support for Educational Institutions and the Degree of Independence of Universities

Governments of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Morocco allocate less than $800 per student per year. Lebanon and Tunisia allocate $1800 per student per year. Saudia Arabia allocates $8,000 per student per year. What Israel and France spend exceeds $19,000 per student per year, and the U.S. spends over $22,000 per student per year.

Based on what the reports reflect, the Arab world is still way behind many countries around the world, especially in the area of educational development, the use of high technology and the availability of enough financial resources, which are needed at all levels of educational development. Furthermore, the absence of democracy and freedom of the press, and the lack of independence for higher academic institutions are all barriers to progress and creativity in the Arab world. The lack of money for research hinders progress and educational development. To illustrate this point, Arab goverments allocate less than $0.3% of their GDP for scientific research, which translates into the equivalent of $10 per capita. Compare to $33 per capita in Malaysia and $1,304 in Finland.

Israel's Expansion Policy

A recent decision made by the Israeli government to build 900 housing units in Gelo - East Jerusalem was expected by those who are familiar with Israeli-Zionist strategy. Since its creation in 1948, Israel has been following a strategy of expansion disregarding the rules of law. Ben Gurion, on the eve of the U.N. partitioning of Palestine, addressed his follwers by telling them that whatever the U.N. designates as the state of Israel should be accepted, and that it would be a stepping stone to the implementation of "Eretz Israel", greater Israel. The Israeli Zionists began to implement that ideology from day one of Israel's official creation in 1948. The tragedy of that is the majority of people living in the U.N. designated portion to become the state of Israel were Palestinians. The majority fled, however, to escape the war and other acts of terror. More than 500 Palestinian villages were demolished completely, so those who had fled their homes had nothing to go back to. Israeli action was nothing but a policy of ethnic cleansing. For more facts on this, read Professor Ilan Pappe's book, "Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine".
Israel began to annex more Palestinian land on a regular basis. On the eve of the 1967 war, Israel was in control of 76% of what used to be Palestine. This is reflective of the fact that they took, by force, 25% more land than the U.N. alloted for them. Since its occupation of the West Bank in 1967, the Israeli government began a land grab policy, annexing Palestinian land to build Jewish settlements. Nearly 300 Jewish settlements have been built where 400,000 Jewish settlers are living.
President Barack Obama has said, Israel's approval of 900 extra housing units at a settlement in East Jerusalem could lead to "dangerous situations" (BBC News, Nov.22, 2009). In the occupied West Bank, violations by Israel are a continuous process. The BBC News reported (Nov.18, 2009) that the Israeli Human Rights group B.T. Selam states that Israel Authorities have demolished more than 400 Palestinian-owned homes in East Jerusalem since 2004. U.N. officials have been warning Israel that such demolitions violate international law. Condemnation from high ranking politicians and organizations in many parts of the world is nothing but an international act of hypocrisy. Israeli politiicans have gotten used to verbal condemnation since no penalty has been imposed on Israel for its violation of international law and its aggression against the Palestinians since 1948. The U.S. government has been a paralyzing force, preventing any meaningful action to be adopted by the U.N. Security Council against Israel. This policy has been followed by the U.S. government since 1948. The U.S. government has used its veto power more than any other security council members, most of it to shield Israel from resolutions submitted by other members with the intention of putting an end to Israeli aggression against Palestinians.
The expansion of Jewish settlements continues, and what is left of the West Bank is not viable to the creation of a Palestinian state. The Palestinians should wake up and follow the late Professor Edward Said's proposal and call for a binational state where Jews, Christians, and Muslims can live in a secular state as they have in the past, prior to the creation of Israel. The Israeli goverment relies on its military strength and is under the illusion that it can resist world pressure. Israel is the fifth military power in the world, backed all the way by the United States. Whatever Israel demands from the U.S., they receive with no questions asked. The Israeli author David Grossman writes, "We have dozens of atomic bombs, tanks and planes. We confront people possessing none of these arms. And yet, in our minds, we remain victims. This inability to perceive ourselves in relation to others is our principle weakness." (R.Cohen, NYT, Nov.16, 2009).

Israeli chief rabbi compares West Bank mosque attack to Kristallnacht.

Recently, the New York Times reported (Dec.14, 2009) that high ranking Israeli chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger visited the West Bank village of Yasuf, where the local mosque was vandalized last week by Jewish Israeli settlers.
Rabbi Metzger told village residents, “I came here to express my revulsion at this wretched act of burning a place holy to the Muslim people.” He drew an explicit comparison to Kristallnacht, the November 1938 attacks on Jewish synagogues and businesses in Nazi Germany. “Seventy years ago,” Rabbi Metzger said, “the Holocaust, the biggest tragedy in our history, began with the torching of synagogues during Kristallnacht.” He added, “We are still living this trauma. And in the state of Israel, we will not allow a Jew to do something like this to Muslims.”
Rabbi Metzger, I salute you for your honesty and courage to publicly condemn such an act. However, what happened in the village Yasuf was not an isolated incident. Similar acts have been taking place against the Palestinians since the creation of Israel. Many Israelis, including high ranking politicians, are Fascist and are applying similar Nazi tactics against the Palestinians. Rabbi Metzger, continue holding the true Jewish Torch, "Let there be light".

Dec 6, 2009

Dubai - An Economic crisis

Dubai is a member of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This federation, which consists of seven sheikhdoms, began in 1971 after the end of the British mandate. Its population consists of 4.6 million people ( UN estimation in 2008). Its GDP is $44.276. Nearly 80% of its population is estimated as expatriates from India, Pakistan, and the Arab world.

The UAE is considered among the most liberal in the Gulf region. Nevertheless, the Emirates are run by single authoritarian rulers. The wealthiest among the seven emirates is Abu Dhabi, where 90% of its wealth is derived from the sale of oil. Dubai, however, gets only 10% of its income from the sale of oil.

The Emir of Dubai initiated a massive economic development with the intention of building a modern city state . His intention was for Dubai to become the center for business and financial institutions in the region, as well as an attraction for world tourism. Modern shopping centers were built, and many super high rise towers were erected - most of the buildings are vacant. Gulf courses and closed skiing tracts with subzero degree were build. This is done in a country where the high heat and humidity are unbearable most of the year. In addition, Dubai launched a massive land reclamation from the sea to build houses on a palm shaped artificial islands!

The economic planning for development in Dubai was not based on sound analytic and scientific rational. Tens billion of dollars were borrowed in order to embark on such poorly planned projects. Years ago, the World Bank has warned Dubai against such nonproductive economic plans, and now Dubai is facing an economic crisis. The bubble was expected to burst!

Dubai has requested to restructure the paying of its debt to international banks. This crisis had a negative impact on Wall Street, and on other financial institutions in various parts of the world. It was estimated that Dubai owes between $ 90- 160 billion to various financial institutions and investors.

The BBC (12/4/09) reported that a climate of fear prevails among property investors, and that property prices have fallen 50%. It has also been mentioned that some of Dubai banks ranking has been down graded.

In spite of its beautiful sandy beaches and winter weather, Dubai does not have antiquities of cultural importance that might attract large number of tourists from around the world. High rise towers and fancy shopping malls cannot be the sole magnate for tourism.

As a final note, I would like to add that the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohamad Bin Rashid al Maktoum, should be given credit for his attempt to modernize his state. Thirty years ago, most of the people in Dubai were illiterate and poverty stricken which is not the case anymore. Hence, there is always hope that in the future Dubai will overcome its economic crisis.

Dec 4, 2009

Education in Egypt

In a previous post (October 9), I have discussed the poor quality of education in the Arab world and its deterioration by comparison to many other countries, world wide. However, recently there has been an encouraging announcement issued through the Egyptian Ministry of Education(Al Masry Al Yom, 11/30/09). It stated that the Egyptian government will allocate 350 million Egyptian pounds to provide modern educational equipments to different secondary schools (high schools) over a certain period of time. Some of the funds will be used to train teachers to operate the new equipments, and to develop new curricula based on new technologies. An amount of 50 million pounds will be allocated for the first stage of the program.

Such a program, if successful, will launch young Egyptians into the 21st century world of technology.

The emphasis on secondary education only, is however, short sighted. The application of modern technology should be part of the educational curricula at all levels. The Egyptian government should provide more funding to support such a worthwhile project.

Al Masry Al Yom (11/16/09) reported that 85% of the Egyptian population uses cellular phones. This means that there are 53.4 million people using cellular phones. It is expected that the number will increase to 65 million people, soon!

I am of the opinion that the Egyptian government should tax cellular phone users the amount of one Egyptian pound per month. If implemented, the government will collect 50 million pounds in taxes per month, and over 600,000 million pounds per year. The money can then be used to train more teachers and equip more schools with modern technology - a big step towards enhancing the quality of education that Egypt is in dreadful need.

A constructive American Foreign Aid

In Al Masry Al Yom (10/21/09) Hasan Bakr wrote that US ambassador, Margaret Scoby, announced the US administration's decision to establish dozens of pilot schools in Cairo and Alexandria. This decision was approved by the Egyptian Ministry of Education. The schools will be fully funded through the US Aid.

Recently, the educational system in Egypt has been deteriorating . This is due to the lack of governmental funding and the rapid population growth. Hence, the US Aid for educational purpose is a well thought of project if it provides the needed tools for the enhancement of education in Egypt.

The proposed schools will be under American management, and students have to meet American admission requirements in order to be accepted.

The objective of building such schools in Egypt is to graduate each year a large number of students whose education is compatible with that of the US.

The new American aid to Egypt will have a positive impact. An impact that will be of benefit to students involved as well as to the Egyptian society in general.

Nov 30, 2009

The Brain Drain in the Arab World

The population of the Arab world is approximately 330 million. It is projected that this number is to double within the next 25 to 30 years.

Currently, unemployment is an explosive issue, specially in the most populated Arab countries. According to a recent report unemployment within the labor force has reached 15%. However, the percentage of unemployment differs from country to country. It is unfortunate that it is the highest among college graduates which is a challenge to the governments and the private economic sectors. This large idle number of university graduates are considered to be ticking bombs in Arab countries.

The World Bank reported that Arab governments need to create between 2010-2020 two million new jobs per year in order to accommodate those who are entering the market every year.

I have my doubts that the World Bank suggestion could be implemented for the following reasons:

1. Absence of a clear blueprint strategy for economic development in most Arab countries.

2. Meager foreign investments, specially in highly populated countries such as, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Sudan and Morocco.

3. Corruption that prevails both in public and private sectors discourage foreign investments.

4. Poor quality of education at all levels which is preventing progress and modernization.

5. Investment outside the region of oil money, specially from the Gulf region.

A recent study done by the Arab League (The Middle East, 9/2008) stated that the immigration of Arab college graduates to other countries are causing a' brain drain' in the Arab world. It has been increasing dramatically in the past few years. Seventy thousand college graduates immigrate to western countries every year. This number is almost equal to 1/4 of all college graduates, which has been estimated at 300,000 per year.

The study further reveals that the economic loss due to the 'brain drain,' is equal to $1.5 billion to the countries that have educated the immigrating graduates: fifty per cent of graduating doctors, 23% of engineers, and 15% of scientists leave the Arab world. Furthermore, the study maintains that 54% of Arab students who graduated from colleges in the West do not return to their country of origin. To illustrate this last point, 34%of active doctors in Britain alone are Arabs.

To conclude, I would like to stress the fact that there are hundred of thousands of highly educated Arabs in western and northern European countries, the USA, Canada and Australia. It is a big gain to those countries, and a significantly loss for the Arab world.

Is there a visible solution in the horizon for such brain drain?
Your comment will be an addition to this post.

Nov 21, 2009

Corruption in the Arab World

The meeting of Transparency International was held, recently, in Qatar. It focused on the issue of corruption which is prevailing world wide. At the meeting a scale was from 0-10 was applied to measure corruption in all countries affiliated with the United Nations (180 countries). The highest the score the least the corruption. It is referred to as "Corruption Perception Index" (CPI).

Al Jazeera.net (11/18/09) reported the results that Transparency International published regarding the corruption level in the Arab world. The following is the classification of countries based on the score from 0 to 10:
Qatar = 7 ; United Arab Emirates = 6.5 ; Oman =5.5 ; Bahrain = 5.1 ; Jordan = 5.0 ; Saudi Arabia = 4.3 ; Tunis = 4.2 ; Kuwait = 4.1 ; Morocco = 3.3 ; Algeria =2.8 ; Egypt = 2.8 ; Jibouti= 2.8 ; Syria = 2.6 ; Lebanon = 2.5 ; Libya = 2.5 ; Mauritania = 2.5 ; Yemen = 2.1 ; Iraq = 1.5 ; Sudan = 1.5 ; Somali = 1.1 .
For the sake of comparison the highest ranked country with the least corruption was New Zealand. It ranked at the top the scale with a score of 9.4, followed by Denmark with a score of 9.3

According to Transparency International corruption world wide cost the public more than one trillion dollars last year (2008). One third of that figure is in the Middle East Region. Unfortunately, corruption is becoming a routine in the Arab world specially on the government level. The average citizen accepts it placidly instead of resisting it. Will this situation be ever ameliorated? This remains to be seen!

Global Warmin And Its Impact On The Middle East

During the past two decades more information have been published regarding global warming and the negative impact it will have on the Middle East, South East Asia and the eastern shores of the African continent.

According to a United Nations report ( Al Masry Al Yom 7/2/09) by 2010 global temperature might increase from 1.1 to 6.4 degrees by comparison to the period between 1980-1999. The report also reveal that this increase in temperature will speed the ice melting in the North Pole which will heighten the water level of oceans and seas. The Mediterranean seal level in particular is estimated to rise by 50 millimeters . If this projection occurs, the high water will flood 1800 square kilometers of agricultural land in the Delta region of northern Egypt. The flooding will have extremely negative consequences on Egypt's agricultural sector, the infra-structure, and the underground water reserves. Moreover, the temperature change will also increase the water evaporation of Lake Nasser in southern Egypt, as well causing cloud formation leading to heavy rain resulting in flooding.

Countries with low land should start planning for the negative outcome from high water levels of oceans and seas. Holland until the 1930s used to experience flooding from the Northern Sea due to its low level land. It built barriers which stopped the flooding of the land.

While visiting Holland on a study tour, government officials took pride showing us the barriers that prevented the flooding of low land from the North Sea. One boasting official said "God created the world , but the Dutch created Holland!"

Hopefully, Egypt and other similar countries with land below sea level learn from the Dutch experience and emulate their accomplishment.

Poverty in the Arab World

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that more than one billion people, world wide, do not have enough food for their daily supply. This represent 1 out of 6 of the world population. The report also referred to poverty in the Arab world where forty million people are experiencing shortage of food on a daily basis, i.e. 13% of the Arab world total population. Furthermore, 100 million people in the Arab countries are living below the poverty line. This is equal to one third of the total population of the Arab world.

There are a number of factors that contribute to the poverty in the Arab world:

1. The uneven distribution of wealth. The income per capita reflects a wide gap between the people. It ranges from $65 per person / year to $53,000 per person /year.

2. The corruption at all levels of government institutions which was recently reported by Transparency International (Al Jazeera.net, 11/18/09).

3. The failure of a development strategy in the agricultural sector where only 30% of the agricultural land is under cultivation.

4. The large amount of the money from the sale of oil invested by Arab governments outside the Middle East and referred to as the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) if used in the Arab world could have created jobs for the millions of young unemployed. It is, however, invested in the USA and Western Europe. More than $ 1.282 trillion were invested in US banks and of course billions of dollars were lost as a result of the 2008 economic melt down (The Middle East magazine , October/09).

5. Unemployment in the Arab world has been estimated at an average of 15% of the labor force by the Arab Employment Organization ( Al Ahram, 11/4/09). A high percentage of the unemployed are college graduates.

This high unemployment rate is definitely the major factor which might lead to political and social unrest in the Arab world, as well a factor towards the rise of international terrorism. It is certainly a highly explosive time bomb that we all should be aware of.

Nov 19, 2009

Water Poverty Stage - Egypt

Al Ahram newspaper stated (7/19/09) that the Egyptian government has issued a report warning Egyptians about the decreasing availability of water in the near future.

The report revealed that in 1947 individual's share of water was 2600 cu. met./year. In 2003, individual's share decreased by 67% to 860 cu. met./year . It is expected that by the year 2025 individual's share will decrease to 582 cu. met./year.

According to government assessment, water consumption in 2006 was 68 billion cu. met. of water, only 64 billion cu. met. was available. Egypt's water need in 2017 is estimated to be 71.4 billion cu. met./year.

It is a well known fact that the Nile River is the major water source for Egypt. It provides the land with 55.5 billion cu. met./year. This is only 86.7% of Egypt water needs. The Egyptian government expects Egypt's share of the Nile River to drop to 80.5% of its basic needs by 2017.

The Egyptian government plans to tap the underground resources to make up for the future decrease of the Nile's water.

The government report, furthermore, revealed how water is consumed in Egypt. In 2007-2008, 72 billion cu. met. was consumed, 83.3% was used by the agricultural sector, 1.7% by the industrial sector, and 11.8% by homes and human consumption.

Despite future water shortage, the Egyptian government, by the year 2017, is planning to cultivate an additional 3.4 million feddans (acres) in order to meet the challenge of food shortage due to the continuous population increase.

The government's report did not reveal a strategy to meet the shortage of water, nor did it reveal a plan to change the traditional method of water irrigation which consumes a high percentage of water.

In an article in Al Ahram International (5/11/01), Dr. Alaa Yassin mentioned that various types of crops require different amounts of water. For instance, one feddan of sugar cane requires on the average 12,000 cu. met. of water compared to 4,000 cu. met. for one feddan of beets. Furthermore, one feddan of rice needs 9500 cu. met. of water as opposed to 4500 c. met. of water for one feddan of corn. Hence, some diversification in the types of agricultural crops, based on scientific methods, could save water for further agricultural development.

In conclusion I would like to stress the fact that new methods and new technologies for irrigation need to be implemented. Egypt does have professional experts able to meet the challenge, and create new modern irrigation techniques, based on scientific methods, that will save the consumption of water and secure Egypt's future. The sooner it is undertaken the better it will be for Egypt.

Nov 15, 2009

Depleted Uranium 'DU'

In a previous post (9/5/09), I referred to the depleted uranium 'DU' found in Iraq, specially in Felluja, as a fallout from the bombs used both times during the 1991 Gulf War, and during the 2003 Iraqi invasion. The impact on the Iraqi people as well as the American soldiers has been disastrous.

The Felluja people have witnessed ferocious battles between American forces and Iraqi insurgent groups.

The Christian Science Monitor (2/20/02) noted that 'DU' "is made from nuclear waste material and fuel. The American army used 320 tons in 1991 to destroy 4,000 Iraqi armored vehicles and swiftly concluded victory."

The Guardian newspaper (11/14/09) reported that babies born with physical defects in Felluja increased by fifteen folds. This, according to British and Iraqi medical team, is due to poisonous chemicals such as 'DU.'

Recently, Al Jazeera.net (10/30/09) stated that it has received a copy of a report written by physicians and scientists that was sent to the United Nations. The report confirmed that the number of babies born in Felluja in September 2009 was 170. Twenty four per cent of them died within a week of their birth, and 75% were born with physical defects. These figures were compared with the number of birth, in Felluja, during August 2002, which was 530, only 6 babies died within the first week after their birth, and one baby was born with physical defect.
Furthermore, in the report, the British and Iraqi medical team requested from the United Nations to investigate the high percentage of newly born babies with physical defects, and the possibility of war crimes committed by the invading forces.
It should be noted here that many American veterans have also been physically affected due to their contact with depleted uranium.

Would this report be seriously considered by the United Nations? This remains to be seen. Meanwhile the consequences of the war are going to be felt by the Iraqi people, and young American veterans for many more year to come.

Oct 31, 2009

Decline of the Educational System in the Arab World -Egypt

Illiteracy in the Arab World exceeds one third of its population, and statistics on illiteracy vary from country to country in the region.

In a previous post (10/24/09), I have referred to the poor quality of education in the Arab world, in both higher academic institutions as well the lower levels. The Economist (10/17/09) referred to a comparative study conducted on the educational system in the Arab World. The study "Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, TIMSS," is issued every four years. The latest issue, 2007, states that "out of 48 countries tested all 12 participating Arab countries fell below the average. More disturbing, less than 1% of students aged 12-13 in ten Arab countries reached an advanced benchmark in science, compared with 32% in Singapore and 10% in the U.S., only Jordan scored above the average."

In Egypt, which used to carry the torch of education in the Arab World, the situation is deteriorating at a rapid rate.

The poor performance of students, especially in math and sciences, is attributed to several factors:

1. population growth is a big challenge to the Egyptian government. There are not enough schools build to meet the increasing number of students. Classes are over-crowded, which hinders the learning process.
2. government budget allocated for schools to meet their basic needs, is relatively small.
3. teachers are not properly trained. Hence, the quality of teaching is poor, a situation that is of concern to many parents. The number of private tutoring is on the increase, and only parents with certain means can afford to hire private tutors.
4. large number of schools are physically and structurally unfit to be used. Some structures are endangering the life of students due to their very poor conditions. Recently, it has been noticed in the Egyptian media that some schools do not have proper facilities to be used by students.

A quick survey of an Egyptian newspaper reflects the intensity of the problem. The followings are some specific points highlighting the decaying conditions of some schools:

1. In 1999 the Egyptian Governor of Buhayra ordered the partial demolition of EDCO (Secondary Agricultural School) for safety reasons. The school used to provide 25 class rooms serving 400 students. After the demolition 6 class rooms were left. Most of the classes are held in the open and chemical labs are unavailable for students. The Governor maintained that he has, since 1999, requested the Ministry of Education to rebuild what was demolished. His requests were never taken into consideration (Al Masry Al Yom,10/30/09)!
2. There are 450 students who are attending school in a barn due to the lack of facilities ( Al Masry Al Yom, 10/12/09)!
3. In Daqahliya, a condemned school liable to collapse, is attended by 770 students ( Al masry Al Yom, 10/31/09). According to this report, the Ministry of Education, for the past ten years, has turned down requests to build a new school!
4.In Al Muhandiseen, a middle class residential area in Cairo, garbage piles are blocking the entrance to an elementary school ( Al Masry Al Yom, 10/14/09)!
5. In the governorate of Ismailiyah, water services were cut off in Sarabiyum school because water bills were not paid (10/19/09)!
6. In Port-Said, 120 students are attending schools in shacks and use the street corners as their public facilities (Al Masry Al Yom 10/22/09)!
7. Garbage piles are surrounding Khalid Ibn al Walid school in Cairo, and students have to close windows to avoid foul smells( Al Masry Al Yom, 10,19/09)!

The above are only few examples listed in one newspaper in less than a month. The Ministry of Education in Egypt is failing on two accounts: to secure the safety of students in many schools, and to maintain a successful system of education. The results of bureaucratic obstacles are reflected in the high rates of students drop-out, and the rising rate of illiteracy. A large number of students graduate from schools with poor education in math, sciences and even the basic knowledge of standard Arabic.

It is a fact, that in any society the education of the younger generation is the most important investment for future development. Hence, it is of the utmost importance for the Egyptian government, specially the Ministry of Education, to seriously re-evaluate its educational programs. Will it be able to face such an important challenge?

Oct 28, 2009

Israel Water Strategy

Recently, I referred to Israel ruthless policy of controlling water from Jordan and the West Bank, and manipulating southern Lebanon and Syrian natural water supplies.

This post consists mainly of quotations reflecting Israel water strategy, and supporting my earlier post on the same topic.

Amnesty International Human Rights issued a report (BBC news, 10/27/09) stating that "Israel is denying Palestinians access to even the basic minimum of clean, safe water, and it must ends its discriminatory policies, immediately, lift all the restrictions it imposes on Palestinians' access to water."

The report consists of 112 pages, the followings are the highlight points:

1 - "Israel has "entirely appropriated the Palestinians' share of the Jordan river and uses 80% of a key shared aquifer."
2 - "West Bank Palestinians are not allowed to drill wells without Israeli permits, which are 'often impossible' to obtain."
3 - Rainwater harvesting cisterns are 'often destroyed by the Israeli army'."
4 - "Israel soldiers confiscated a water tanker from villagers who were trying to remain in land Israel had declared a 'closed military area'."
5 - An unnamed Israeli soldier says rooftop Palestinian household water tanks are 'good for target practice'."
6 -Much of the land cut off by the West Bank barrier is land with good access to a major aquifer."
7 - Israeli military operations have damaged Palestinian water infrastructure, including $6 m. worth during the Cast Lead operation in Gaza last winter."
8 - The Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza has exacerbated what was already dire situation by denying many building materials needed for water and sewage projects."

The report, however, also criticizes the Palestinian water authorities for bad management.

There is no doubt that the Israeli government policy is a strategy to make life unbearable for the Palestinians. It is a policy reflecting the Israeli intention of ethnic cleansing.

Furthermore, Amnesty International maintains that "on average Palestinians daily water consumption reaches 70 litres a day , compared with 300 litres for the Israelis." Actually, "some Palestinians barely get 20 litres of water a day - the minimum recommended even in humanitarian emergencies."

I would like to add that are many Israeli human right organizations that have condemned Israel's policy towards the Palestinians. Such views are also shared , world wide, by people concerned with basic human right needs.

Oct 24, 2009

Demise of Education in the Arab World

Arab media as well as Western media have recently reported that the quality of education is regressing in the Arab World. This regression is widening the gap between the Arab World and the developed world.

The Economist (10/17/09) mentioned the listing of the world top 500 universities, none of the Arab universities were included. However, six Israeli universities were listed.

The lack of progress in the Arab World is due to more than one factor:
1. Arab academic institutions lack the autonomy that prevails in the developed world. Academic institutions are under the tutelage of the Minister of Higher Education. Political interference, which is suppressing freedom of expression and innovation, restrains creativity and progress.
2. The educational budget allocated to universities and other higher institutions, is small and does not meet the basic needs such institutions require.
3. Financial support for scientific research is meager and does not support innovative research.

The Egyptian newspaper, Al Masry Al Yom (10/20/09), mentioned the UNESCO report that dealt with monies spend on research in the world. Egypt was at the bottom of the list by comparison to India, Brazil and Argentina. It has, since 2002, allocated only 0,2% of its gross domestic products (GDP) for scientific research.

I was not surprised that the Arab Gulf countries ranked below Egypt, since they are busy building 'sky scrapers'!!

The report further stated that Israel was ranked number one country in the world to spend 4.7% of its (GDP) on research, followed by Japan, which spends 3.4%. The United States ranked third in spending 2.7% of its (GDP) for scientific research.

Other factors affecting the educational system in the Arab world are:
1. Lack of well equipped libraries with recent publications.
2. Hardship students face when searching for references.
3. Absence of advanced computer centers considering the large number of students attending universities.

According to an article in Al Masry Al Yom (10/15/09), Egyptian universities are graduating ignorant students by the thousands.

Such criticism does not reflect students' ability or willingness to learn. But, it is the lack of a sound educational system which in itself does not encourage learning, does not stimulate students, and does not promote creativity.

Egypt is a poor country and its resources are limited. However, enhancing the quality of education is fundamental. Education is the foundation for progress, and human development in any society.

One solution would be for Egypt to pass a new educational tax law of 1% to 2% on all commercial transactions. The revenue collected would be used to supplement the government educational budget for scientific research, high tech-equipments, and library resources . The implementation of such proposal would require politicians with a vision, who are aware, and who are interested in Egypt's future needs.

Oct 23, 2009

Egypt's relation with the Nile River Basin Countries

In a previous post (8/28/09), I referred to the conflict between Egypt and the countries of the Nile River Basin, who want to re-consider the 1929 agreement with Egypt whereby Egypt's share of the Nile River water was stated as 84 billion cu.met per year.This treaty stipulates that the Nile River Basin countries cannot develop projects that might affect Egypt's share.

Lately, Israel has been playing an influential role in these countries especially in the area of agricultural development, water projects and other economic related activities. The Israeli's role is viewed by Egypt as a threat to its national security.

I am of the opinion that the cause behind this rapprochement between Israel and the Nile River Basin countries, is to create pressure on Egypt to allow Israel to obtain a share of the Nile River water.

The late Prime Minister of Israel, M.Begin, had once asked the late President Sadat to divert some of the Nile River to Israel. President Sadat turned the request down.

I was watching a program ('Halit Hiwar' or 'case of discussion') on the Egyptian channel Al Masriyyah (10/17/09). The discussion that evening focused on Israeli's role in the countries of the Nile River Basin, and its cooperation with these countries in agricultural developments, and water projects. The discussion was led by nine guest speakers, specialists in various fields. They were all aware of Israel's active role in the Nile River Basin countries, and the significant absence role of Egypt in the same countries.

The discussants suggested that Egypt ought to help the governments of the Nile River Basin countries to start constructive projects such as: agricultural, infrastructural (building of roads and bridges), and medical (establishing clinics to treat the natives freely).

However, I was disappointed that the discussants did not refer to education. It would be of great help if Egypt could offer scholarships to students in the countries of the Nile River Basin. These scholarships will help in the education of young students who might become the future leaders in these countries. Such programs will in the future strengthen relations between Egypt and the receiving countries.

The Egyptian newspaper, Al Ahram, reported (10/19/09) that a large Egyptian government delegation led by the Minister of International Co-operation(F. Abu Al Naga) accompanied by engineers in various fields, were visiting Ethiopia with the hope of starting joint projects in the fields of agriculture, irrigation and electrical power. Such cooperation will be of benefit to both countries, and will ultimately protect Egypt's share of the Nile River water.

Oct 18, 2009

Sequel - Yemeni Water Crisis

Yemen is the poorest Arab country, 42% of the population live below the poverty line which consists of $2 per day, per person.

I have previously written about the Yemeni civil war which has been intermittent since the mid 1960s. It is a senseless war causing an economic burden and human sufferings. Official reports maintain that between 150,000 to 200,000 people have fled the war zone to Sana, the capital, a situation that has caused major economic hardship in the city. Furthermore, Yemen is facing a major water crisis. According the the UN Arab Human Development Report (2007-2008), 32% of the population are deprived of drinking water.

In an article in the LA Times (10/11/09), Haley Sweetland Edwards stated that "Sana's populations of 2 million is growing at the rate of 8% year - overwhelmed job markets and overstretched services. The unrelenting pressure is likely to make Sana the first capital in the world to run out of drinking water--as early as 2025, according to a recent projection by Sana Water Basin Management Project, which is funded by the World Bank." The article further states that "the average person in Yemen survives on one-fifth of what the World Health Organization considers to be an adequate amount of water."

In the same article Edwards states that the majority of people in Sana depend on water extracted from wells, transported by tanker trucks, distributed and sold to residents at a cost of 20 to 60 cents a gallon. Although this seems to be a meager amount of money, nonetheless many Yemeni cannot afford to pay for their water supply.

Abdul Rahman Fadhl Iryani , Yemeni minister of water resources, said to Edwards that "the nationwide crisis would require that the government implement a comprehensive plan to oversee water extraction, build additional wells and water mains to serve the growing capital, and reform water use in the agricultural sector."

I would like to stress here that a large quantity of water is used to irrigate the popular Khat* plant. The plant 's leaves, considered as narcotic, are chewed by many men in Yemen. Several attempts on the part of the government to prohibit the cultivation of Khat have failed.


*NB: Khat, Qat, or Ghat has been grown for use as a stimulant for centuries in Yemen. Its leaves are chewed or dried to be consumed as tea in order to achieve a state of euphoria and stimulation (Wikipedia).




quotes the Yemini minister of water resources

Oct 14, 2009

Sequel - Water Crisis in The Arab World

The BBC News (10/13/09) reported that "for the last two years Iraq, Syria, Jordan and parts of Turkey and Lebanon, have suffered from the devastating effects for the worst drought that the Middle East has experienced in decades."

At a recent meeting of the Arab League, the Chairman Amr Moussa stated that the Arab World is facing critical water shortage and unless some drastic measures are taken, it will be classified among the most impoverished water region. He, further, maintained that the Arab World needs to challenge the "Israeli water theft in Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon" (Al Masry Al Youm, 10/13/09).

According to the UN Arab Human Development Report (2007-2008), 15% of the total population is unable to obtain clean, fresh water for drinking. The percentage fluctuates from 2% in Egypt to 32% in Yemen. Moreover, sewage system lacks among 30% of the population in the Arab World. The percentage fluctuates from 2% in Lebanon and the Emirates to 70% in the Sudan. It should be stressed here that the Arab World is inhabited by 5% of the world population and have only 1% of the fresh water in the world.

In some countries of the Arab World drought has lasted longer than others. For instance, the UNESCO reported that "drought in Iraq has forced more than 100,000 people in Northern Iraq to abandon their homes since 2005, with 36,000 more on the verge of leaving.The four-year drought and excessive well pumping have led to the collapse of an ancient system of underground aqueducts, or karez.* Only 116 of 683 karez systems are currently operational, according to a study of the United Nations Agency. The study says 70 percent of active karez have dried up." (New York Times, 10/14/09)

The drought and the construction of dams in Turkey and Syria decreased the flows of the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers by more than 50%. "Southern Iraq river flow is so sluggish that salt water from the Gulf has reached further upstream, making it hard to supply safe drinking water to Basra."( BBC News, 10/1/09)

The recent Iranian action to divert the flow of the Karoon river water away from Shatt Al Arab increased the salinity of water in the area.

The impact of the drought could also be seen all over Syria. "Roads around the capital Damascus are lined with makeshift camps. An estimated 300,000 people have already fled the north east and officials say that every day brings more refugees. With hundreds of thousands of people coming towards the cities, drought is changing the demographics of the Middle East. It is spreading poverty and social discontent and putting an addition pressure on already vulnerable societies." (BBC News, 10/13/09)

There is no doubt that scarcity and shortage of fresh drinking water is causing anguish, and leading to the destabilization of societies in the Arab World.

*NB: karez is an irrigation water system that originated 3000 years ago in Western Iran and Northern Iraq.

Oct 12, 2009

More on the Water Crisis

Juliette Jowit (The Guardian 11/2/08) stated that "population keeps growing and getting richer, and global warming changes the climate. Experts are warning that unless something is done, billions more will suffer lack of water - precipitating hunger, disease, migration and ultimate conflict."

She further points out that the Stockholm International Water Institute "talks about an 'acute and devastating humanitarian crisis'; which might result in water wars as Banki Moon, UN Secretary General has stated.

Africa and the Middle East have the highest rate of population growth. Both regions are experiencing water shortage due to climatic changes and meager rainfall. The declining of rainfall impacted agricultural productivity which led to starvation in certain areas of Africa. Millions of children died prematurely as a result of malnutrition.

The drought in certain parts of Africa resulted in the migration of people in search of water and graze lands for animals. This is the major cause for the Darfur conflict.

Other factors contributing to the water crisis, is the absence of water management programs that deals with water needs and its distribution, and the lack of experts and funds needed for the success of such programs.

Jowit further says that the "UN maintains individuals need five litres of water a day simply to survive in a moderate climate, and at least 50 litres a day for drinking and cooking, bathing and sanitation. Industry account for about double the average domestic use - but agriculture needs much more - in fact, 90% of all water use by humans."

Marq de Villiers says Jowit stated that "there's certainly enough water for every person on the planet, but too often it's in the wrong places at the wrong times in the wrong amounts."

It is ironic that while writing this post stressing the scarcity of water where it is mostly needed, Africa and the Middle East, the weather channel on TV reported heavy rainfall causing serious floods in the Philippines, South East Asia, China and India!

Indeed, future war will be 'water wars' as Banki Moon stated.

Oct 10, 2009

Human Exploitation and Water Crisis

In an excellent article "is Water the New Oil" published by The Guardian (11/2/2008), Juliette Jowitt discusses early human exploitation of water by referring to the work of archeologist Steven Mithen, professor of early prehistoric at the University of Reading and archeologist Bill Finlayson.

Their studies dealt with an ancient site where "humans made a permanent settlement, " Wadi Faynan in Jordan.

Jowitt stated in her article that according to archeologist Mithen, water was the reason for the settlement in Wadi Faynan 11,500 year ago.

The early wave of settlement was "drawn to water." It "attracted successive wave of settlements...which would eventually all but destroy the resource which made life possible."

History is definitely repeating itself. In modern time, water crisis is caused by human exploitation, or as Jowitt wrote "human over-exploitation" of the environment. "It is a pattern that's been repeated for millenia, around the world and it now threatens us on a global scale."

As the livelihood of the ancient Bedouins of Wadi Faynan in Jordan was inextricably tied to water, so is the livelihood of modern man.

Water "is the world's most precious commodity, yet many of us take it for granted. But, that's all about to change." Juliette Jowitt

More to come on the future water crisis faced by the Middle East.

Oct 2, 2009

Israel Nuclear Hegemony in the Middle East

Western powers led by the USA began talking to Iran regarding its nuclear program hoping to convince Iran to open its nuclear facilities for international inspections.

The rational behind this approach is to prevent nuclear proliferation, and to discourage the Israeli government from attacking Iran's nuclear facilities. Such an attempt will totally destabilize the Middle East region.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chief of staff said "an Israeli strike would be profoundly destabilizing." and have "unintended consequences" (Washington Report, September-October, 2009).

However, if Iran succeeds in having nuclear weapons, it will challenge Israeli hegemony in the Middle East region.

Recently, Israel has been pressing Western powers to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
During the past 20 to 30 years, Israel has always tried to prevent any country in the Middle East
to conduct research to enrich uranium that might lead to the production of nuclear weapons. For instance, it bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1987, as well as the Syrian suspected nuclear facilities in 2007. Moreover, the Israeli Mossad was accused of the assassination of Arab and Iranian nuclear scientists.

It should be stressed here that Britain, France and indirectly the USA provided Israel with technical equipments and materials to start its nuclear research. This help, led to the Israeli production of weapons of mass destruction. The CIA reported that Israel possesses between 200 to 300 nuclear bombs!

Israel should not dictate who should or should not acquire nuclear weapons. Since 1974, Egypt has been calling on Israel to give up its nuclear weapons, and turn the Middle East region into a free zone from weapons of mass destruction. Otherwise, nuclear proliferation will occur in other Middle Eastern countries such as: Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

I am of the opinion that the whole Middle East should be free of all nuclear weapons, and hopefully the whole world!!

Sep 29, 2009

Water Shortage in Jordan

In a previous post (9/13/09) I have referred to Jordan as among the five most impoverished country in the world in water supply. Nearly 90% of Jordan is barren desert.

Jordan depends on rainfall for its drinking water and agriculture irrigation. It has always been very efficient in capturing 90% of its rain. However, recently rainfalls have diminished due to climatic changes which led to longer periods of drought.

In addition to natural causes, Israel, in violation of international law, has diverted most of the Jordan River water to southern Israel. This has increased the depletion of the Jordan River. Officials in Jordan estimated that the flow of water into the Dead Sea from the Jordan River is 10% of what it used to be 50 years ago. It has been estimated that by 2050 the Dead Sea would have dried out.

Furthermore, in order to make up for the decreasing water flow into the Jordan River, Israel diverted water from a sewage plant into the River. Hence, the meager flow of water into the River is highly polluted (BBC News, 9/26/2009).

Recently, due to the decreasing availability of fresh water, the Jordanian government established a Water Management System whereby certain sections of the capital Amman will be receiving water during specific days: 1 or 2 days per week instead of 2 to 3 days per week.

Four years ago (2005) Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority have agreed, in principle, to build a canal connecting the Red Sea with the Dead Sea at an estimated cost of $11 billion. The purpose behind the proposed project is to provide a new source of drinking water as well as a new flow of water into the Dead Sea. This project is still not implemented due to the lack of financial resources.

The Al Jazeera (9/27/09) reported that the Jordanian government officially announced that it will build part of the above mentioned canal connecting the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. It will start in 2010 and be completed in 2014. The initial cost for such construction is estimated at $2 billion.

The canal will pump 310 million cubic met. per year from the Red Sea, of which 240 million cubic met. will be desalinated in Aqaba. From the 240, 120 million cubic will be used for drinking water, and 130 million cubic met. will flow into the Dead Sea.

Presently, the population of Jordan exceeds 6 million, and it is increasing rapidly at the rate of 3.5% per year. Hence, the construction of such canal is extremely important to Jordan in order to meet the pressing need for drinking water.

Sep 27, 2009

Yom Kippur

I couldn't help but writing this post since tomorrow is Yom Kippur which is celebrated by people of the Jewish faith.

According to Judaism, Yom Kippur is a day of atonement and acknowledgment.

By 'acknowledgment' I hope Israelis examine the frequently used terms: 'anti-semetism' and 'Holocaust.'

Israeli politicians and Jewish Zionist skillfully use the above terms to intimidate those who criticize their policy.

Amira Hass, an Israeli journalist wrote an article, 'The Holocaust as Political Asset,' in Haaretz (4/18/2007) stating that "turning the Holocaust into a political asset serves Israel primarily in its fight against the Palestinians." She, further, points out that : " The phrase 'security for Jews' has been consecrated as an exclusive synonym for 'the lesson of the Holocaust.' It is what allows Israel to systematically discriminate against its Arab citizens." 'Security' is used to justify "control of the West Bank and Gaza and of subjects who have been dispossessed of their rights living alongside Jewish residents, Israeli citizens laden with privileges."

Acknowledgment of the miss use of words by Israeli apologists will be consistent with Judaic tradition for such a day as Yom Kippur.

For further information on the miss use of the above terminology see:
1. Ilan Pappe's "Genocide in Gaza, Ethnic Cleansing in the West Bank." The Independent (1/28/08).
2.Ilan Pappe, "Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.
3. Norman Finkelstein, "Beyond Chutspah."

Sep 26, 2009

Double Standard

During the past years the US and Western governments have been pressing Iran to implement UN resolutions regarding its nuclear research program.

A threat of severe economic sanction is to be imposed if Iran does not comply by UN resolutions.

The Western mass media continues to present Iran as a threat to world peace due to its nuclear research, which will ( in the media's opinion) lead to the production of nuclear weapons.

The US and Western governments are continuously insisting on having Iran implement the UN resolutions, However, they are not pressing Israel to end the occupation of the West Bank!

During the past forty years, Israel has obstinately ignored UN resolutions and continues the illegal construction of Jewish settlements. More than 250 settlements were built to accommodate 500,000 Jewish settlers.

Israel has consistently ignored UN resolutions since its creation in 1948. It continues to confiscate Palestinian lands, demolish homes of Muslims and Christians Palestinians and destroy their farm lands. The reasons behind such disregard for international request (albeit a lukewarm request) is due to US foreign policy. It indirectly gives Israel the green light to do what it pleases.

President Obama has proposed to the Israeli government to freeze the construction of settlements as a precondition to start peace negotiation with the Palestinians. Last June in a speech at Cairo University, President Obama clearly stated that the US does not accept the legitimacy of Israeli settlements.

Furthermore, in his UN speech (9/23/09) President Obama stressed the illegal occupation of the West Bank, and called on both sides, Israeli and Palestinian, to start negotiation to end the conflict.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has rejected so far any freeze on the construction of settlements!

President Obama's request need to be implemented, and Israel tactic of 'ignore and reject' needs to be reversed to a policy of 'acceptance and execution'.

The US and Western governments should put an end to their double standard policy. The same standard used towards Iran should be applied on Israel.

Finally, in order to have peace between Israelis and Palestinians, the Israeli government should implement without delay UN resolutions. A hopeful wish!

Sep 24, 2009

The Clowning of M. Gadhafi at the UN

The international press had their day, yesterday, reporting around the globe about Gadhafi clowning at the UN.

In a rumbling speech at the opening meeting of the UN General Assembly (9/24/09), Libya's M. Gadhafi spoke for more than one hour without making any sense.

He praised President Obama and said that "Obama should be president for life"!! A statement reflecting his political credo. Few minutes later he shifted the topic to the assassination of President Kennedy, and the needs for the removal of the UN outside the US.

In addition to his inane speech, Gadhafi created a stormy situation when he decided to pitch his large tent in an estate in New Jersey. The local authority objected and his plan was quashed.

Gadhafi is a disgrace to Libya and to the Arab World in general. His presidency ad infinitum, 40 years, is due again to the absence of democracy in that part of the world.

Sep 22, 2009

The Underlying Meaning of Throwing a Pair of Shoes!

Few days ago the Iraqi government released Montather al Zaidi from jail. He was imprisoned for throwing his shoes at President G.W.Bush during his last visit to Iraq in 2008.

Al Zaidi is an Iraqi journalist who shared the suffering and pains of many Iraqis that resulted from the US invasion of Iraq. When he threw his first shoe at President Bush he shouted: this is a message of retaliation on behalf of the widows of Iraq. He threw his second shoe and exclaimed: this is on behalf of the orphans of Iraq.

It is an insult to hit someone with a shoe according to Arab culture.

Within hours after that incident Al Zaidi was viewed as a national hero in the Arab World as well as in many countries outside the Middle East region. It has also been reported by the Arab press that a wealthy Saudi offered a million dollars to get that pair of shoes!!

My point here is to stress the recklessness of the Bush administration in starting an unnecessary war that caused extensive human casualties and physical destruction. More than 1.25 million Iraqis died needlessly. This large number of casualties translates into more than 740,000 widows and around 5 millions orphans. Moreover, this war has destabilized the Iraqi society by creating 5 millions refugees.

We Americans have also suffered tremendously in terms of human loss and economic debacle.

Shouldn't the Bush administration be held accountable and responsible for misleading the American public??

Sep 21, 2009

Control of Iraqi Oil

The US Vice President, Joe Biden, has just returned from a trip to Iraq. According to the Washington Post (9/17/09), Biden has pressed "Iraqi leaders to offer more financial incentives for foreign investors to bid on Iraqi oil concessions." In this article, according to Bill Van Auken " this demand points once again to the real motives that underlay the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq....."

The Iraqi government has not yet responded to US pressures.

American politicians continue to commit mistakes due to the pressure applied on them by lobbyists and big corporations.

Politicians have been talking about developing alternative programs which will make the US less dependent on oil imported from the Middle East. They have failed so far.

Thomas Friedman in an excellent article "Real Men Tax Gas" published in the NYT (9/20/09), quotes the energy economist Phil Verleger who recommended " a 1$ tax per gallon on gasoline and diesel fuel." Such tax Verleger says "would raise about $140 billion a year," and if he had that money he"would devote 45 cents of each dollar to pay down the deficit and satisfy the debt hawks, 45 cents to pay for new health care and 10 cents to cushion the burden on the poor...and those who need to drive long distances."

Verleger expounds a very sound economic proposal that not only discourages people from driving the extra mile, but can also provide the money needed to support President Obama's health care proposal.

I would like to stress here that Western and Northern European countries began to impose taxes on oil ( between $ 4 and $5 per gallon) more than 20 years ago and it did not ruin their economy.

The price of imported oil is controlled by Wall Street gamblers who were mostly responsible for last year increase in gazoline prices which reached $4 -$5 per gallon.

In general, the American public is submissive to the "market conditions," and seldom questions Wall Street financiers' maneuver. But, whenever the word 'TAX" is mentioned, the public complains in spite of the fact that the US is not the highest taxed country in the world. It ranks 12th after other European countries.

Let us be more committed and support a gasoline tax which will benefit our society at large.
The only way to be committed is to make our voice heard.

Sep 17, 2009

A Recent Tragedy in Yemen

Since the end of foreign colonialism in the Arab World, i.e. after WWII, not a single country experienced political stability. This is attributed mainly to the fact that the Arab World has been, and still is governed by authoritarian rulers despite their claim that they were freely elected by their people.

There is an absence of democracy, accountability and transparency in the Arab World that are the major causes for the present turmoils in the region.

The latest political upheaval is taking place in Yemen between the government forces and the Shi'a (Zaidi) rebels.

The Shi'a-Zaidi were overthrown in 1967 by a military coup. This led to an eight years civil war.

The recent rebellion of the Shi'a group referred to as the Huthis, claim that they are discriminated against by the government in Sana'a. On the other hand, the government claim that the Huthis want to impose Shi'a religious law on the Yemini population.

According to a UN Report (BBC News 9/10/09), more than 150,000 Yemini have fled their homes to escape death.

Who is righteous? Which side is ethical? This is not the issue, but rather the death of innocent people on both sides, is the issue

Unfortunately similar conflicts will occur in the Arab World until the day we see that authoritarian regimes are replaced by freely elected system of government.

Sep 15, 2009

Lebanese Political Turmoil

It has been almost three months since Lebanon's parliamentary election took place.





The majority and minority elected blocks have failed to reach an agreement regarding the formation of a national unity government.





This failure is attributed to two major factors, sectarianism and foreign interference.





First, sectarianism was the result of an agreement made by the French colonial power after WWII. According to this agreement, the president's position would be given to a Christian Maronite despite the fact that demographically Maronites were a minority group. The prime minister's position would be allocated to a Sunni Muslim, and the speaker of the parliament would be a Shi'a Muslim.





Second, foreign interference in Lebanon internal affairs has been consistent. This is reflected in the recent election. The majority block let by a Sunni Muslim, Saad Hariri, is backed by the Saudi and American governments, and indirectly by the Israeli government. The minority block led by a Christian Maronite, Michel Aoun, and a Muslim Shi'a, Hasan Nasserallah, is backed by the Syrian and Iranian governments.



Both sectarianism and foreign interference have had a major negative impact on the instability of Lebanon. The only solution to this complicated situation is for Lebanon to adopt the popular voting system irrespective of ethnic, or religious affiliations.

Sep 13, 2009

Crocodile Tears Over the Dying of the Dead Sea

The BBC News reported on 9/12/2009 that Israel is mourning the dying of the Dead Sea.



The Dead Sea is located between Jordan on the east side, and the West Bank and Israel on the west side. It is considered to be the lowest spot in the world, 420 meters below sea level.



Prior to the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, the Jordan River was a major source of water to both Jordan and Palestine. Since the creation of the state the flow of the River began to decrease due to the diversion of its water to southern Israel.



It was estimated that before the diversion of the Jordan River water, one billion cubic meter per year used to flow into the Dead Sea. Now the flow is less than 10% of what it used to be. This change led to a drastic fall of the water level of the Dead Sea by 80 feet, and the loss of 1/3 of its original size.



It is indeed a farce on Israel 's part to mourn now the "Dying Dead Sea" after having diverted most of the Jordan River water away from it.



Shouldn't the Israeli government be held responsible for such an environmental disaster??



See earlier post on this blog: Israel Water Control

Sep 10, 2009

Iraq Water Problem: Further diversion

Iran has recently committed an environmental violation. It has completely diverted the water flow of the Karoon River away from Iraqi lands.



The Karoon River starts in Iran and flows into the Eastern area of Shatt el Arab in Iraq and into the Arab Gulf.



The river course of the Karoon was diverted into the Bahinsheer River in Iran. The water diversion, which has been estimated to be 1200-1800 cu.met/second, will result in a severe water shortage in the Basra governorate in Southern Iraq.



The impact of this water diversion will affect both the agricultural and fishing sectors in Iraq.



It should be stressed here that Iraq has already been affected by the decrease in the water flow from both the Euphrates and the Tigris Rivers due to the construction of dams in Turkey.



The impact of the latest diversion of the Karoon River will create further hardship on Iraq.

Shouldn't then International law control the flow of rivers that crosses international boundries???

Garbage Dilemma in Egypt

The collection of garbage has been recently a problem for the Egyptian peope, especially in the greater Cairo Metro area.



The government has contracted foreign companies, after the failure of national companies, to assume the responsibility of garbage collection. However, the problem has not yet been resolved and the people are suffering from such incompetence.



What does it take for those responsible to establish an efficient system of garbage collection and street cleaning in a city such as Cairo that attracts millions of tourists????



Egyptian's bureaucratic apathy has to be shaken and the public has to demand efficient services from their officials.

Sep 7, 2009

Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinians Brought to the Readers' Attention

'Eretz Israel' or greater Israel is a political Jewish-Zionist ideology which was promulgated by European Jews since 1897. It calls for the creation of a Jewish state stretching from the Nile to the Euphrates.



The ideology was implemented 50 years later by the United Nations. In 1948 the UN partitioned Palestine into a Jewish and Palestinian state without the consultation of the majority of its Muslim and Christian population.



The designated 53% portion of the land of Palestine was to become the state of Israel inspite of the fact that the majority of its population were Palestinians.



Since its creation, Israel began to implement its expantionist policy by forcing out hundreds of thousands of Palestians.Others fled as a result of fear after the massacre of Dir Yassin. Furthermore, more than 500villages were demolished by the Israeli military forces in order to prevent Palestinians to return to their homes.



Prior to the 1967 War, Israel was in full control of 78% of what used to be Palestine. After the war and the occupation of the West Bank, Israel built more than 250 Jewish settlements.



The construction and the annexation of Palestinian lands in the West Bank were in violation of all UN resolutions, the International Court of Justice, and the Geneva Accord Treaty of 1948.



Anyone criticising Israeli policy towards the Palestinians is branded as an anti-Semitic.



For further information, please read the book entitled 'Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinians' by the Israeli Professor Ilan Pappe. The book was published in September 2007 by the National Book Network.

Sep 5, 2009

Freeze on the Construction of Settlements in the West Bank

Several months ago, President Obama asked Prime Minister Natanyahu of Israel to freeze constructions and expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank as a pre-condition to the discussion of the two states solution.

The Israeli Prime Minister has not yet responded positively to President Obama's request. The construction of thousands of homes are still carried on in the West Bank.

Israel is not only defying the US President, but also ignoring the whole world which is supportive of President Obama's initiative.

I think that the traditional US approach of using velvet gloves to continuously deal with the Israeli government is a waste of time. If the Israeli government does not comply with the request of settlements freeze, more serious measures should be publically announced and applied.

Israeli Military Arrogance

Israel is classified as the 6th military power in the world, and the dominent one in the Middle East region.



Nevertheless, Israel has been attacking voiciferously Iran about its nuclear potential as being a threat to Israel's security.This is despite the fact that according to the CIA report, Israel possesses between 200-300 nuclear heads.



Furthermore, Israel has recently expressed alarm at the growth of the Algerian militry navy, which in the view of the Israeli government is a threat for its future international routes for trades.



If Israeli politicians fear the threats mentioned above, why don't they take firm and final decisions about withdrawing from the occupied land, and settling the conflict with the Palestinians? And, why don't they support the Egyptian proposal to turn the Middle East region into a zone free from all weapons of mass destruction?

Effect of Depleted Uranium

Since the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, the dropping of American bombs is having a drastic impact on the Iraqi population.



Recently, it has been reported ( al jazeera 9/1/09) that the number of children born with physical defects in Iraq (Faluja) has been increasing. This is the beginning of a tragedy for future Iraqi generations due to the biological effect of depleted Uranium(DU).



I would also like to stress here that the (DU) from the American 'dirty bomb' is also causing irreparable damages to many American soldiers.



For mor information on (DU) read my article "The Iraqi War Conspiracy and Its Tragic Aftermath" cited on the blog.

Turkey, Syrian and Iraq water problem

There has been ongoing meetings between officials from Turkey, Syria and Iraq regarding the decreasing flow of water in both rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris.



The Turkish government acknowledged publicly the water need for both neighbors, Syria and Iraq, and promised to increase the flow in the Euphrates from 400 to 500 cu.met per second. But, it refused to formalize it and sign an agreement with Syria and Iraq since Turkey itself does not have excessive water behind its dams.



Any increase or decrease of the water flow in both rivers, will also be affected by the seasonal rainfall. Hence, the environmental factor will be the decisive factor in the future.

Sep 4, 2009

Israel Water Control

There are three areas in the Middle East classified as candidates for a political upheaval due to the shortage of water: Israel, Jordan and the West Bank.

Israel, Jordan and the West Bank rely on two main water sources. The Jordan River which starts in the Syrian Golan Height and flows into Lake Tyberius, and into the Jordan valley to finally end into the Dead Sea.

Three agreements were signed between Israel, Jordan for water sharing.

1. American mediation led by E. Johnson (1955) allocated 175 million cu.met. /year of water from the Jordan river to Jordan. The agreement was not implemented because Israel diverted most of the Jordan River water to southern Israel.

2. In the peace agreement between Jordan and Israel, signed in 1994, the previous water allocation was revised and Jordan was allocated 75 million c.met./year. However, after the assasination of prime minister Rabin, the new prime minister Natanyahu dropped Jordan's share of water to 25 million cu.met./year. That portion of water was highly polluted.

3. The peace agreement of 1994 included a statement whereby Jordan was prevented from drilling wells in Waddi Araba, which is part of Jordan. Hence, Israel was given full control of the underground water reserve.

The above reasons led to an increase in water shortage in Jordan and led to its classification among the five most water impoverished countries in the world. The average individual share of water has been estimated to be 150 cu.met./year, only 50 cu.met./year of that is allocated for personal drinking.

Second, the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians over the control of water, began with the occupation of the West Bank in 1967. Since then Israel began to control water resources, and the Palestinians were prevented from drilling wells from their underground reserves.

Under the Oslo agreement of 1995, Israel is allocated 57 cu.met.of water per person per year from all sources. However, the Israelis gets 246 cu.met./person/year. The source of such amount is derived from the West Bank underground reserves.

Since its creation in 1948, Israel relied totally on the use of military force to implement its political ideology of expansion.

*Kevin, your comments are an addition to my blog. Please keep it up

Sep 2, 2009

World Water Development Report

The depletion of fresh water resources is attributed to several factors:



1. climate change

2. population growth

3. expansion of industrilization and urbanization

4. expansion of agriculture to meet demands for food production



The World Water Development Report stated that within the next 30 to 50 years there will be "substantial population displacements" due to the shortage of water especially in the Middle East, such as in Israel, the West Bank and Jordan.

United Nations Report

The UN continues to issue warning of widespread water shortage. Such shortage will raise risks of political upheaval and economic stagnation over the next 20 years.

According to the UN Report, 19 Arab countries out of the 22 are classified below the poverty water level.

The UN reports that individuals share of fresh water in the world has been estimated at 7,000 cu.met/year/person by comparison to less than 1,000cu.met/year/person in the Arab World.

With the continous increase of population and urbaniztion fresh water supply will continue to be depleted.

Sep 1, 2009

Consequences of water Shortage in the Middle East


The Middle East consists of 25 states of which 22 are Arab states.


The region is inhabited by more than 500 million people, two third of them live in the Arab World. They do indeed face many problems such as : environmental, political, economical, and demographic. All of these problems are pressing issues.




Million of people depend on fresh water from three major rivers. The Nile which starts in Africa, and Egypt is the last recipient of its water; the Euphrates which starts in Turkey and flows into Syria, Iraq and the Arabian Gulf; the Tigris which also starts in Turkey and flows into Iraq and the Arabian Gulf.




The environmental changes that contributed to many droughts, as well as the increase in population led to the shortage of fresh water in the Arab World.


Some Middle Eastern experts predict that the lack of fresh water in the majority of countires in the Middle East will be the spark that will ignite conflict and wars rather than oil.


What do you think? This is open for an interesting discussion.

Conflict in Sharing the Water of the Nile River


"Egypt is the gift of the Nile" Herodotus.


During the past few years several meetings were held regarding water sharing between the Nile river basin countries.


The Nile river basin countries consists of: Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Congo, Kenya and Burundi. The down river recipient countries are: Sudan, and Egypt.


The focus of discussion among the representatives of both groups was to revise a water sharing agreement that was signed by all under the British colonial authority in 1929.


According to the agreement, Egypt was to get 84 billion cubic meters per year from the Nile river. Furthermore,the agreement states that no water diversion project affecting Egypt's share should be constructed .


The last meeting of the countries involved was held in Alexandria, Egypt, in July 2009. No agreement was reached. However, the committee decided to meet again in six months after consulting the authorities in each government.


Meanwhile another meeting was taking place in Israel. It was reported that an American Jewish organization arranged for high government officials from Rwanda and Uganda to visit Israel to discuss economic co-operation in agricultural and water development projects along the Nile river.


Egyptian newspapers stated that Israel was behind the revision of the Nile water treaty.








It should be added that after the signature of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, prime minister Menahim Begin expressed interest in receiving water from the Nile. President Sadat of Egypt rejected such an idea








I would like to stress the fact that the livelihood of 80 million people in Egypt depends on the Nile river.
Hence, should the Nile river or other rivers, or other rivers for that matter, crossing international boundaries be regulated by international law?