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 31, 2011

The Protestors – Personality of the Year

Time Magazine has selected the protestors for its cover page as the personality of the year. This selection signifies the protestors’ courage and sacrifice through their message against the corrupt, authoritarian regimes in the Arab world. Such an action was driven by courage, because they sent their message at the right time in protest of the unjust system that has been producing suffering and agony for the majority of the people.

The protestors shared a social identity and acted collectively to achieve their goal. They were driven by a common identity and purpose. The person who sparked the Arab spring revolution was Mohamed Bouazizi, who set himself on fire. It was not about the Tunisian police confiscating his fruit cart but when he went to the responsible officials, his complaint was ignored. He then set himself on fire. It was an act of self dignity.

His self sacrifice sparked the fire that led to the Tunisian revolution a year ago, which led to the collapse of the previous regime and ushered the country into a new stage that led to the first free democratic election in Tunisia. The political impact of the Tunisian revolution expedited the upheaval in the rest of the Arab world.

As a matter of fact, the political volcano was approaching explosion a few months before the Tunisian eruption in July 2010, as a result of the arrest and killing of Internet activist Khalid Saed. Khalid Saed was a courageous young man who exposed the filth of Egypt security personnel by putting pictures on the Internet involving drug trade. The Internet activist was the target of the Egyptian security forces in Alexandria. He was tortured to death. The Khalid Saed page on the Internet was the first step that mobilized tens of thousands of young people during the summer of 2010, who were connected through Facebook and other technological means of communication. Members of the Spider Network were the ones who called for the mass protest on January 25th, 2011, that led to the collapse of the Mubarak regime on February 11, 2011.

The political flames that sparked the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions also led to the removal of the Libyan regime and to ongoing civil wars in both Yemen and Syria, which ultimately will remove the corrupt regimes in both states.

Not too many experts or political analysts could have predicated the Arab Spring revolution, nor could they have predicted such a rapid and major impact, not only in the Arab world, but also on the entire world.

The lesson that has begun to develop in many countries is that when people, especially the younger generation, are dissatisfied with their political and economic conditions, they rebel even in democratic societies such as the U.S., Russia and other western states demanding reforms.

The Arab spring revolution removed the blanket of fear, especially in the Arab world, where the corrupt leaders have taken their people for granted and believed they could do whatever pleases them. This will no longer happen. For those who have been elected in Tunisia and Egypt, regardless of the color of their political ideology, they have to work hard and implement programs that will meet the needs of those who started the revolutions. After all, the unemployment factor and increasing poverty, among other important reasons, have ignited the spark that led to the use of public protests.

There are more than 25 million people who are unemployed, especially the young and college graduates, in the Arab world. In any society, when the young get their education and are not able to find jobs, they are walking ticking bombs. A report issued by the World Bank stated that the Arab states need to create at least 100 million jobs during the next twenty years to met the rising needs for employment. Arab oil producing states in general should invest part of their money surplus in the Arab world, instead of investing it in the west.

Dec 27, 2011

The Revoking of Citizenship in the UAE

Members of the Arab Gulf states met (12/20/2011) in Saudi Arabia to discuss their agenda. King Abdullah addressed the members and urged them to move from the cooperation stage into an actual political unity. He stressed the impact of the political upheaval taking place in the region and the threat it might cause to the Arab states in the Gulf region. Furthermore, he stressed the fact that unity among the member states will strengthen them to face the threat from outside of the region. The leadership of the Arab Gulf states, in particular their neighbor Iran, is the source of their internal conflict, especially between the Sunnis and the Shiaas. Such sectarian conflicts have been part of the region for more than a thousand years.

One of the decisions made by the leaders during the conference was the withdrawal of the Saudi government’s invitation to Jordan and Morocco (May 2011) to join the royalty club of the Persian Gulf states. At the time, they saw in it a strategic point that will strengthen the monarchies regimes in the Arab world.

At that time, Jordan, who shares land borders with Saudi Arabia, welcomed the offer, while the Moroccan government was not too receptive of the idea due to the long distance that separates the countries.

To ease the negative impact of the withdrawal of the initiation, the members of the council decided to provide an economic fund equal to $5 billion to both Jordan and Morocco. Each state would get $2.5 billion for economic development.

The press reported that two members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the United Arab Emirates and Oman, objected to the Saudi proposal. It should be of interest to speculate and analyze the rationale that led both states to object to that invitation. First, since it emerged as a state during the British Mandate during the first half of the twentieth century, Oman was in almost total isolation, even from its neighbors in the Gulf. The situation continued in many ways, even after Sultan Qaboor removed his father and assumed leadership in the state. Also, the government of Oman, who rules by decrees, did not want to open its borders for many young educated people from other countries with high literacy rates, especially Jordan, to travel to Oman without restrictions because it could have created a new awareness for their counterparts in Oman. Young people, as has been reflected in the spring revolution, is a contagious social and political disease that will impact their political and social institutions.

The Emirates’ objection, in my judgment, was influenced by the recent political-religious objections to the absolute rule of the princes’ council, which is based on tribal affiliations. The Islamic Islah Muslim organization has been calling for the political election of Islamic organizations recently in Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco.

The UAE government officially announced the withdrawal of citizenship from six citizens who were accused of threatening the national security of the state. The accused individuals, who are members of al-Islah Muslim group, are accused of being connected to an outside power that threatens the state.

According to the press (Al-Khuds al-Arabi and al-Wafd, 12/24/2011), Sheikh Khalifa ben Zaid al-Nahyan, the head of the state, is the one who issued the order based on Law 16 #17, 1972).

The press also reported that all of the accused are academicians employed by the state and the university. Some of them are members of prominent families and Emirates tribes. However, all of them are known as active Islamists.

Citizenship is a human rights issue and the Emirates officials, who are known as liberals by comparison to some of their neighbors, should not have abused the rights of their citizens. In any civilized democratic society, the citizens’ have the right to criticize their officials. Unfortunately, UAE is not a democratic state. The withdrawal of citizenship will lead to political and sectarian conflict.

The Emirates’ total population is estimated at 4.7 million and 75% of them are foreign workers. This might be one of the major reasons behind the Emirates rejection of the Saudi proposal for Jordan and Morocco to join the Gulf Cooperation Council. More educated young Arabs moving into the Emirates without restriction is viewed as a potential ticking bomb that will threaten the authoritarian tribal base monarchy.

The Arab Gulf States and the Spring Revolution

The fever of the Arab Spring Revolution has impacted all Arab states in one form or another. The Arab Gulf states have also experienced some political unrest, especially in Bahrain, where more than 1600 have been taken as prisoners and 40 have been killed. Recently, the United Nations requested the Bahraini government release the political prisoners from jail and warned against the use of violence by authorities. Reports revealed that Bahraini security forces attacked the headquarters of the Shiaa opposition, who constitute more than two thirds of the total population. It is also unfortunate that forces from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are helping the regime in Bahrain to suppress the opposition.

In Saudi Arabia, a few attempts of protesting were made, but authorities stopped them before they picked up any momentum. In the eastern part of the country, where the Shiaa are concentrated, protests took place, which led to the killing, injuries and jailings of some of the protestors.

It is unfortunate that the major conflict in both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia is attributed to the discrimination and suppression conducted by the Sunni Muslim authority against the Shiaa Muslims. In Bahrain, more than two thirds of the population belongs to the Shiaa, who are controlled by the Sunni minority. In Saudi Arabia, the Sunni majority are in full control of the Shiaa minority.

The source of the conflict is based on sectarianism. Both countries are run by authoritarian monarchies and there is no room for democracy and/or transparency. Qatar is the third country in the Arab Gulf region that is more open and less suppressive than the others, but the public has been influenced by the fever of the Arab Spring Revolution. Qatar is among the wealthiest in the Arab world because of oil and gas and had its first election for the municipal council. The country is run by Crown Prince Hamad bin Khalifa, who announced a few months ago an election for a new parliament in 2013. One of the major factors that contributed to the state’s stability is its welfare system.

The United Arab Emirates is also among the wealthiest states because of its oil. The rulers of the UAE have been experiencing some political pressure from Islamist political groups, such as Islah, which means “reform”. The government of the UAE has recently withdrawn its citizenship from 6 religious Islamist activists who are challenging the authority of the oil rich federation.

Al-Islah is an organized political Islamist group whose number has been estimated at around 20,000 members. Their leadership has called on the UAE political leadership to reverse its decision against the six members who signed a petition calling for a democratic election of parliament with an executive.

The al-Islah group has been influenced by the political winds caused by the Arab Spring Revolution and the recent political Islamic victory, especially in Tunisia and Egypt. The political leadership of UAE began to fear the challenge of political Islam and its threats to their tribal legitimate authority.

Abu Dhabi’s vast oil resources have created a welfare state, which in many ways has prevented street riots similar to what happened in some Arab states, especially the ones in nearby Bahrain.

The Emirates are ruled by tribal crown princes with a totally population of more than 4.75 million. However, 75% of them are foreign workers. The transition into some form of democracy is coming. It is a matter of time.

The sixth state in the Gulf region is Oman, which is ruled by Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, who inherited the position from his father. The country is not as rich as others, but it relies on oil revenues and agriculture cultivations for its economy.

So far, Oman ahs been spared the turmoil and political unrest that has plagued some of its neighbors in the Gulf region.

Oman is ruled by an authoritarian monarch who rules by decree. Nevertheless, it is a matter of time before the population of Oman will start demanding freedom and a democratic institution.

Oman, which used to be living in almost total isolation even with its close neighbors, has been removing the social and political barriers as a result of the mass media, tourism, trades and the increasing numbers of educated people. The winds of political change are blowing that will ultimately bring reform.

Dec 23, 2011

The Iraqi Crisis

After the withdrawal of the last troops from Iraq (12/22/2011), President Obama made public remarks that the departure of U.S. forces left behind “a sovereign, stable and self reliant Iraq, with a representative government elected by its people”.

It is regrettable to say that the president’s remarks were based on an illusion that after nine years of occupation, the Iraqi people have changed and are supportive of democracy.

The election that took place was based on sectarian division. For hundreds of years, Iraq experienced sectarian conflict, especially between the Shiaa majority and the Sunni minority, who were in control of the country until the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime after the American invasion in 2003.

A few days after the departure of U.S. troops, a series of explosions took place in Baghdad that led to the deaths of more than 70 people and the injuries of more than 200 others. A day prior to that, Prime Minister al-Maliki issued an arrest warrant for the Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi on terror charges. The vice president fled to Irbil in Iraq’s Kurdistan governate. He denied the charges from there and refused to go back to Baghdad. At the same time, the Iraqi prime minster requested that the Kurdish government in Irbil arrest al-Hashemi and turn him over to the Baghdad government. No action has taken place as of December 22, 2011. The prime minister also stated that nobody should interfere in the Iraqi judicial system.

Furthermore, Mr. al-Maliki issued another order to prevent the vice prime minster, Mr. Saleh al-Mutlag (who is also a Sunni) from participating in the cabinet meeting. Al-Maliki is asking parliament to remove his immunity so he can be arrested.

The two political steps that the prime minister has taken against the two top Sunni government officials reflects al-Maliki’s strategy to marginalize the Iraqi Sunnis from the political arena in Iraq.

If such steps are implemented, it is going to cause a blood bath in Iraq between the Shiaa majority and the Sunni minority.

The Iraqi sectarian political conflict is a deep-rooted religious problem that has been part of the social structure of Iraq for hundreds of years.

Prior to the American invasion of 2003, Saddam Hussein’s government was the most secular in the Middle East region. He suppressed the militant Islamic groups among the Shiaa and the Sunni groups. They were not permitted to even express their views or to admit that they existed. Even Osama bin Laden (who was a Sunni and the leader of al-Qaeda) has stated publicly before the Iraqi invasion in 2003 that “Saddam Hussein was more dangerous to their cause than the Americans”.

The previous leader of Iraq was the head of a secular government and many of the top government positions were occupied by secular Shiaa individuals. As a matter of fact, after the American invasion of Iraq, the U.S. issued an order for the arrests of the 52 highest ranking Iraqi politicians. The order was issued in a deck of cards form of 52 pictures. 37 of the pictures were Shiaa high government officials and the other 15 were Sunni. The situation at the present in Iraq reflects that Prime Minister al-Maliki is trying to marginalize the Sunnis from political power, which is going to lead to more bloodshed as well as to the destabilization of Iraqi society and will extend Iranian influence in Iraq. The U.S. invasion of the Iraq has contributed to this mess and the country is in a serious political crisis. American politicians keep committing one blunder after another and the American people will end up paying a heavy price for their ignorance. To be precise, it was a big mistake to get involved in a war in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The consequences were negative and of no benefit to the US.

Dec 21, 2011

Egyptian Women on the Protest Line

The Arab Spring Revolution has so far led to the collapse of four corrupt regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen. Others are on the way out.

Another significant change has also been taking place quietly, which is the role of women in general in the uprising in many states in the Arab world.

The participation of women in the protest movement in Yemen led to one of the most active women, Tawakul Karmen, to be nominated and receive the Nobel Prize for her active political and social role in Yemen.

In Egypt, from the first day of the revolution, many young women marched side by side with men in support of the revolution. Their role didn’t end with the collapse of the Mubarak regime, but they continued to see that the demands that the young people have been asking for have not been totally implemented.

The recent protest that took place during the third week of December in front of the prime minster’s headquarters led to ugly consequences that no person would have anticipated.

The military police and other security agents with civilian clothing were sent to stop the peaceful protest, but it turned into ugly and shameful acts committed by the soldiers.

Many soldiers teamed up to beat the few young people who were thrown on the ground. One disgraceful scene was of a young woman stripped of her upper clothing and exposed to the public. While she was on the ground, soldiers continued to kick her with their boots.

Such behavior on the part of that soldier who tore off the girl’s clothing should not be lightly dismissed. He and other soldiers have brought disgrace to the Egyptian army, who were expected to protect the public

The Egyptian Higher Military Council went through a stage of denial that such a thing did not occur until video clips and photos started circulating on the Internet and in newspapers. Some used titles such as, “Shame on Egypt and its Military”.

The next day (12/20/11), Egyptian women protested in massive numbers in Tahrir Square and in front of the parliament, calling on military forces to surrender their power to a civilian council and to punish those who committed the shameful acts the day before.

The women were shouting, “Pull my hair, drag me to the floor and strip me, but my brother’s blood will cover me”, “Where are you, General Tantawi?” and “The Women of Egypt are Here”.

Many political and social organizations have called for a million protestors on Friday (12/23/11), which they have labeled “Radil Sharaf”, which means to regain “our honor”.

Protestors refer to the young woman who experienced such humiliating and ugly treatment by soldiers as the “woman with the blue bra”.

However, I would like to note that the woman with the blue bra has already ignited the spark for change in the role of women. The new role, as well as their political activities, puts them on the central stage of public life for the first time in their lives.

In Arab society, where males are traditionally the dominant figures not only at home, but also in public life, women standing and chanting side by side with men, reflecting the beginning of new social and cultural trends not just in Egypt, but also in some other Arab states as well.

Another strong indication of women’s new active political roles is their massive participation in the recent Egyptian elections, where they stood in long lines for hours to fulfill their political duties to their own society. For the vast majority, it was the first political participation of their lives.

The slogan “the woman with the blue bra” has ignited the flame that will further boost the roles of women in Arab society.

The Rise of Political Islam

The recent parliamentary election of stage one and stage two reflects an impressive victory for Islamic political parties. Both major parties, the Freedom and Justice Party (which is the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood) and the Al-Nour Party (an Islamic Salafi group) have both won more than 2/3 of the future parliament seats. I have no doubt that the third and final stage of the election, which will take place in January 2012, will bring similar results to both Islamic political groups. The Freedom and Justice Party will end up as the major winner with at least 40% of the parliament seats. The Al-Nour Party will probably end up as the second winner with at least 25% of the seats.

This political trend has raised many speculations and concerns about the new rising political Islam. Any person who is familiar with the history of the Muslim Brotherhood, which go back more than 80 years, could have predicted in advance that they would be a winner. The projection made prior to the election gave the Freedom and Justice Party between 30 and 35% at most. Nevertheless, they ended up with a higher margin than what analysts expected, and this sends a wave of concern over western governments and Egyptian secular groups and political parties, who ranked as third place winners. There are a number of reasons behind the political successes of the Freedom and Justice Party. First, they are highly organized and disciplined and their members strongly believe in their cause. Second, thousands of their members and many of their leadership have been arrested during the past seven decades and have served long periods in jail. Third, the Muslim Brotherhood are well financed, which enables them to provide social, religious and economic help and services to the poverty stricken segment of the Egyptian population. Such economic and social services have been going on for many decades among grass roots, especially in poor neighborhoods. This is part of the rationale used by many Egyptian voters in support of the Freedom and Justice Party. Furthermore, poverty-stricken people in general tend to have strong religious beliefs that, psychologically speaking, tend to bring relief and hope to many of them. They view the Muslim Brotherhood as a religious political party.

All of these points played an influential role among the poor especially in support of political Islam and against the secular political parties. Most probably, many of the Egyptian voters view secular political parties as part of the previous regime. They were referred to as the opposition political group, but for many decades their role was not effective at all.

For that and other reasons, many of the voters have lost faith in many of these secular political parties. Also, many of those who supported the Freedom and Justice Party among the Middle social strata, viewed them as more liberal in terms of their interpretation of religion. They view Islam with a modern outlook that is totally the opposite of the Al-Nour Salafist views.

Nevertheless, the success of the Al-Nour Salafi Islamic group came as a big surprise to too many people who were not well known to the public at large. Reports revealed that large financial support from the Gulf region played a role in their political support, as well reflected in the results of the election. It was also reported that money was used to buy votes, a political tactical strategy that was used by the previous regime as well as in other Arab states. The Arab Gulf government doesn’t want to see a secular government in Egypt. Whatever political model will emerge in Egypt will end up impacting all other Arab states.

Despite the fact that both political Islamic parties, the Freedom and Justice Party and the Al-Nour Party, will end up with more than 2/3 of the future parliament seats, they will not end up having a joint government. Their religious-political strategies and agendas tend to be the opposite of each other.

I predict that the Freedom and Justice Party will align itself with some of the secular political parties to form a majority government. I doubt very much that they will be concerned with the various religious issues as circulating rumors reflect. They have major economic challenges that need to be dealt with, such as unemployment, poverty, tourism, foreign investment, health and education among many other pressing issues. Also, they are aware that the public, especially those who voted for them, will be eager to see quick and positive economic changes that will benefit them. This is not an easy task for any political group in Egypt to bring rapid changes at all levels.

The Freedom and Justice Islamic political party is facing a very difficult challenge so let us give them a chance and wish them success. Furthermore, the Freedom and Justice Party has been pressing their demand that the elected parliament should assume the responsibility of appointing a commission to draft the proposed new constitution. Such a responsibility should be outside the jurisdiction of parliament. The members of the commission should be independent and its members should be nominated by all political segments of the Egyptian society, including the Egyptian Higher Military council, in order to reflect a broader range of views. This will safeguard the principles of equality and democracy for all.

I hope the January 25th revolution, which opened the political door for political Islamic parties, will bear fruits that will benefit those who were the vanguard of that uprising.

Dec 19, 2011

The Tragedy of Recent Egyptian Events

The collapse of the relationship between the Egyptian Higher Military Council and the Egyptian public, especially the younger generation who initiated the January 25th revolution, began to take place after what has been happening since October 2011 the killing of young protestors. The latest number of people killed, according to the Ministry of Health, is 16. More than 815 people have been injured as a result of the shootings and beatings committed by the military police and other security agents to try to stop the continuous protests in front of the headquarters of the prime minister’s office and the parliament building.

I have seen the ruthless measures used against the young people, such as when more than five soldiers ruthlessly beat a protestor who was on the ground. I have seen the security police pulling young girls by their hair to be arrested. I have seen the Egyptian security on the roofs of government buildings in civilian clothing throwing stones at protestors below them. These men are the Egyptian securities who are equal to the Syrian shabiHa doing the ugly and dirty task for those who are sitting and watching them from behind the scenes. There is no doubt whatsoever that the top military bosses are behind it. E very time such attacks against the peaceful protestors lead to the killing of innocent people who want better days and an honest government for their society, but who instead are paying a high price. Every time such attacks occur, the Higher Military Council try to use excuses that foreign hands or members of the previous regime are causing it. They call for investigation to see who is behind the killing and each time nothing comes out of it. It is very interesting to hear that the Egyptian security forces went after al-Jazeera crews who filmed the attacks taking place against protestors and confiscated their cameras. It is an act to destroy the identity of the security members who are involved in the crimes committed.

Let me say that the Egyptian Higher Military council that was labeled as the protector of the revolution turned out to be its enemy. After all, those high-ranking generals were part of the previous corrupt regime. As a result of the December 16th massacre, it was reported that eight members of the Magliss al-Shura, whose job was to provide advice to the military council, have resigned. Others are demanding a public apology from the military council to the families who have lost their loved ones as a result of the brutality. The military council, as well as the prime minster, have been saying all along that no force would be used against the protestors who have the right to protest. Why, then, did the military police destroy and burn the protestors’ tents, in Meddan al-Tahrir? The military council has failed to play a just role. They are committing the same brutality used by the Mubarak regime.

Since October 16, three massacres occurred against the protestors. The question that ought to be asked by the members of the Higher Military council is: why are the young people still protesting, despite the fact that free democratic elections have been taking place and will be completed in January 2012? The simple answer is the fact that the army has failed to implement the demands that were set by the protests since February 11th, 2011. The old political parties, secular and religious ones, have stolen the revolution with the help of the military council and have marginalized those who initiated the revolution and have sacrificed more than 1,000 shaheed, which led to the removal of Mubarak’s regime.


The revolution, from the protesters point of view, meant not only the removal of the president and a dozen high political officials, but rather a total change that would have impacted all governmental institutions.

New Dawn for Iraq

L. Panetta, the American Secretary of Defense, traveled to Iraq to participate in the final stage of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. The press reported (12/16/11) the passage of the last American military convoy into Kuwait. Only a few hundreds American soldiers are left to train the Iraqi military on the new weapons obtained form the U.S. Furthermore, it was also revealed that the U.S. State Department has signed a contract with private security companies that will bring thousands of agents to provide protection for U.S. diplomatic missions in Iraq, whose number has been estimated to be more than 16,000 individuals. It is the largest U.S. foreign diplomatic mission in the world. The state department stated that the financial cost to provide protection has been estimated at $3.8 billion per year. The size of the private security is estimated to be more than 5,500. It should be of interest to estimate that the total number of Americans who will be operating in Iraq in various capacities will be between 20,000 and 25,000 people.

For that and other reasons, questions are raised about when the U.S. government and military presence in Iraq will come to an end? The answer to such a question will become clearer during next few months. Nevertheless, the American invasion of Iraq officially came to an end after more than eight years of fighting, which is considered the longest war the U.S. was ever involved in. It was an unnecessary war by any standard, because Iraq did not pose a threat to the U.S. in any way, shape, or form. There were no accurate reports that Iraq possessed WMD.

All evidence available prior to and after the invasion revealed that it was a personal war in the mind of an irrational and unwise American president, George W. Bush. The Iraq war was an obsession in the mind of the president, because he wanted to remove Saddam Hussein since Hussein publicly threatened to kill his father. The Iraq war was a personal vendetta. In some ways, it was reflected in the public statement Bush made aboard an American Navy carrier 40 days after the Iraq invasion in 2003, when he said, “The mission is accomplished”. At that time, Hussein’s government had collapsed. This reflected the short sightedness of Bush, because at that time, the war that would last eight years had just started.

The consequences of Bush’s personal war led to many negative consequences to both the U.S. and Iraq. The most tragic part is the deaths of more than 4,500 American soldiers and more than 1.25 million Iraqi civilians.

Those who advocated and misled the American people should be tried for war crimes, starting with Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld. Several international organizations have been calling for the prosecution of Bush, but the members of congress have ignored such requests. It is, of course, to be noted that the majority of the members are as guilty as their president because they gave him the green light to start the war without investigating the false reports given to them by his administration. Many of these congressional members were and are under the influence of American lobbyists who viewed the war as a profitable business. This is one face among others that reflects the corruption of the American style of democracy. Finally, Bush should be prosecuted for the war crimes that he was responsible for.

Dec 15, 2011

Israel Nuclear Strategy

During the past few decades, there have been numerous reports about Israel’s nuclear arsenal. The American CIA reported that Israel possesses between 200 and 300 nuclear heads. The history of the development of nuclear research goes back to the 1950s. the three major western powers have extended their technical help to the Israeli government directly and indirectly. France provided the nuclear reactor, Britain provided the heavy water and the processed uranium was stolen by an Israeli agent from the Pennsylvania reactor. When the investigation of the theft led to Israel, President Johnson ordered the file to be closed.

In a previous post, I provided information on Israeli nuclear strategy and the wars it conducted to bomb the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981 and the suspected Syrian one in 2007. In addition to that, Israeli agents have conducted a campaign of assassination of Arabs as well as Iranian nuclear scientists.

The Israeli strategy is clearly defined: no state in the Middle East should acquire nuclear weapons, so that Israel remains the only state with WMD. Last year, when the Jordanian government announced their water purification project by using a nuclear reactor as the main source of energy, both Israel and the U.S. objected to it. The objection came as a result of Jordan contracting with French and South Korean private companies to process the raw uranium that is available in large quantities in Jordan, to be used as fuel for the proposed reactor. Both the U.S. and Israel suggested that Jordan should import the processed uranium from abroad.

It is unfortunate to say that the U.S. foreign policy regarding nuclear weapons has been one-sided, which is reflected in his campaign to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear bombs.

For the past fifteen years, Egypt has been introducing proposals at both the U.N. and the International Nuclear Agency advocating a policy to turn the Middle East into a region free of weapons of mass destruction. In one-way or another, the U.S. has always kept rejecting the proposal.

Nevertheless, during the past few weeks, the issue of the possibility of Iran possessing nuclear bombs is creating a panicky situation among the Saudi regime.

In a Arab Gulf Security Meeting, Prince Turki al-Faisal, who was also the previous Saudi Intelligence Chief, and a previous Saudi ambassador to the U.S., said that Saudi Arabia should acquire a nuclear bomb. This is necessary in light of the Israeli and Iranian potential of having WMD.

Since Israel has refused to consider the proposal of turning the Middle East region into a zone free of WMD, Iran will end up getting their bomb and then the Saudis will have no choice but to get one, too.

The prince emphasized the need to protect the Arab people in the Gulf region from the possibility of future nuclear threats. In a previous post, I suggested the creation of an Arab nuclear research institute that would provide the facilities for research and gather the nuclear scientists from the Arab world to work collectively for the benefit of the Arab world.

Egypt is the most capable of providing the majority of the talent needed and the oil producing Arab countries should provide the financial support for such badly needed technology in the Arab world.

Dec 14, 2011

American Foreign Policy and the Arab World

During the American election for the White House and Congress, and as usual, some politicians from both sides ignored anything connected with the truth, objectivity and honesty to achieve their political objectives. One of the major political policies that has dominated the candidates stage is U.S. foreign policy towards Israel. As usual, candidates from both sides will compete with each other to see who is going to offer the Israel government the most politically, militarily and economically. No reference whatsoever is raised by the politicians in terms of such blind support and its impact on American national interest. Only a few ex-members of Congress have gathered the courage to talk about it, but only after they have announced that they will not be seeking reelection. Those did seek reelection after talking about this lost their seats.

The American political system has been infected by a political virus that has led to its corruption. As it was described by the New York Times (8/20/2011), “Our Politics Are Sick”.

A few days ago, during the debate of the Republican candidates for the presidency, Newt Gingrich made a stupid remark to appease the Israelis and their supporters in the U.S. He stated, “The Palestinians are an invented people.” He continued to say that there was no Palestine as a state and that it was part of the Ottoman Empire. Furthermore, he also stated that the Palestinians are part of the Arab world.

Mr. Gingrich, who at one time was an academician before running for Congress, is aware of basic research techniques. He could have obtained enough information through the Internet on the Palestinians and the domination of the Arab world by the Ottoman Empire for 500 years. The end of World War I led to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, which also led to the fragmentation of the Arab world. During Ottoman rule, the Arab world experienced many revolts and uprisings against the rulers. Among other things, historians reference the 1834 Palestinian uprising against Ottoman rule. Let me also point out, for the benefit of readers, that western powers (Britain and France) divided the Arab world into different political states in 1919 and Palestine was put under British mandate until 1948. In 1919, the Jewish population in Palestine was less than 12% of the total population.

Mr. Gingrich is not really interested in knowing the truth, because the word “truth” means nothing to Newt. He will sell his soul to the devil it will benefit him personally. Mr. Gingrich’s character is well known, especially to those who worked with him when he was the Speaker of the House. As Senator Levin, a Democrat, puts it, “Gingrich offered no solutions – just a can of gasoline and a match.”

By the way, Mr. Gingrich, the Palestinians are not “terrorists”, as you call them. They are fighting to regain what they have lost. God save the U.S. if he ends up being the Republican candidate.

Dec 13, 2011

Political Money and Egyptian Election

Since the fall of Hosni Mubarak’s regime as a result of the January 25th Revolution, large sums of money from outside Egypt as well as from unknown sources within have been given to organizations to influence the future direction during this transitional period.

The previous prime minister, Isam Sharef, has recognized such illegal transactions and promised to investigate the matter. He turned over the recipients to the courts for prosecution for violating Egyptian law. (al wafd, 8/16/2011).

According to Mr. Sharef, there are more than 24,000 civil organizations that are licensed, in addition to another more than 5,000 organizations operating illegally. Also, there are foreign organizations operating in Egypt that might threaten the national security of Egypt.

The Ministry of Justice announced the formation of a committee to investigate and reveal the names of organizations that accept illegal money on July 27th, 2011. These organizations are supposed to be prosecuted.

The “U.S. AID” has informed the Egyptian government that they have contributed $165 million to organizations that will work to support “democracy”. The money given helped some of the recipient organizations to become organized political parties.

Political money, especially when given by foreign governments or organizations, reflects an act of direct interference in the internal political affairs of Egypt. The U.S. government is not the only one to commit such illegal acts. Secret reports revealed that several Arab governments from the Gulf region have sent many millions of dollars to various Islamic organizations with the objective of influencing the direction of public voting during the parliamentary election.

The use of political money to buy or influence individual voting has been a common method used by the previous regime to ensure the victory of the government party (National Democratic Party). The usage of political money is a common political strategy used by authoritarian Arab regimes during the past 4 -5 decades.

Unfortunately, there were already official complaints of the usage of political money by several Islamic organizations that have influenced the voting results during the first stage of election that took place in early November 2011.

Different political tactics have been used in violation of the law, such as paying cash money in advance to people for their vote, or gifts in the form of food that were given to people in poor neighborhoods. Also, religious slogans were used to tell the public that those who cast their votes to secular political parties are committing religious violations.

The result of the first stage of voting led to an impressive political victory to Muslim political parties, especially the Freedom and Justice party, which is the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood. The second winner, which took the public by surprise, is the Noor Party, a very conservative Salafi Islamic group.

There is no doubt in my mind that Saudi political money played an influential role in their election. In addition, other gulf states’ contributions also have the objective of electing conservative Islamic religious parties, which will not have a negative impact on the future of their regimes. From their point of view, secular government in Egypt will lead to the development of democratic institutions and will have an impact on their regimes. Egypt is the heart of the Arab world and the most influential state. The political model that will emerge after the election will have an impact on the rest of the Arab states. The judicial higher committee in charge of the election stated that some of the violations that took place during the first stage of the election will be prevented during the second and third stages, which will take place in December 2011 and January 2012.

Let us hope that political policies that contribute to a democratic transition will be implemented.

Dec 11, 2011

Modest Suggestion for Education Development in Egypt

A few weeks ago (10/23/2011), almasry-alyoum newspaper published an article about the poor physical conditions of some schools in Egypt. One picture showed 2,000 students sitting on (Hasira) straw mats that were wet from sewer water. In another picture, the roof of a school was removed. In Maadi, there are two schools on both sides of Street 4, which I used to pass by. I counted the broken windows and calculated that they comprised 25% of all the schools’ windows. Some windows were even covered with cardboard. Such schools are located in middle and upper middle class neighborhoods. It seems to me that teachers and in particular principals of these schools have lost their innovative abilities to be more creative in taking the initiative to fix such minor things as broken windows. It is understandable that during the past 40 years or so, the government has ignored its responsibilities in many areas.

Education in general is the most vital area for the progress of Egyptian society. Even the physical structure of a school tends to have an impact on a student’s ability to learn. For example, schools that are not heated and during winter, a broken window or a school without a proper roof will impact students’ ability to learn, due to the low temperature.

I am sure if the principals of these schools, especially in Maadi, asked the parents to contribute only one Egyptian pound to fix the windows, that there would be enough response to overcome such minor problems.

Nearly 50% of Egyptians are living near or below the poverty line. However, I am astonished to read in al-shoruq news (9/27/2011) that there are 76.43 million cellular phones in use in Egypt. In 2010, the number of people who paid their regular fees was 58.972 million people. Keep in mind that the total population of Egypt at that time was around 83 million.

The point I would like to bring to the attention of some responsible is the fact that leveling a minimal tax fee of one pound per cellular phone each month will not create too much of a financial strain on users. The suggested of one Egyptian pound should also be matched by the three cellular phone companies (Itisalaat Masr, Mobinile, and Vodaphone of Egypt). If such proposal is implemented, it will generate more than one hundred million Egyptian pounds per month, and over 1.5 billion pounds a year. The money should be allocated not only to fixing the physical deterioration of schools, but also to build hundreds of new schools per year and equip these schools with modern technology. The Egyptians, throughout and even prior to recorded history, have created an advanced and civilized society when European ancestors were still living in caves.

The Egyptian public should respond to their society’s needs and stop relying on their government. The younger Egyptian generation, who were the vanguard of the January 25th revolution, can assume such a task and the public will be supportive of their efforts.

The new Egyptian Minister of Education, Gamal al Arabi has announced his coming trip to visit different schools in Egypt. He will meet with teachers to discuss the improvement of the quality of education. Furthermore, the new minister is requesting an additional increase of 800 million Egyptian pounds for the education budget to reach 3.6 billion pounds for the academic year 2012-2013. The proposed budget is still not enough to impact the quality of education of more than 20 million students attending schools in Egypt.

Dec 9, 2011

The Increasing Toll of the Iraq War

The Iraq War is winding down by the end of 2011. However, the human and financial cost continues to increase.

According to a recent study done by McClatchy Newspapers, analysis of the Department of Veteran Affairs data points out that “While Vietnam extracted a far higher death toll – 58,000 compared with 6,300 so far in the war on terror – the number of documented disabilities from recent veterans is approaching the size of that earlier conflict”.

He continued to say that veterans leaving the military in recent years are filing for and receiving compensation for more injuries than did their fathers and grandfathers. The McClatchy report revealed that despite the death casualties in both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars was 6,300 and 46,000 have suffered injuries, but more than 600,000 have filed for VA disability benefits and more than 70,000 have been treated in the VA’s medical system. The report emphasized that the vets of both wars health problems cover a broad range of both physical and mental disabilities.

Professor Linda Bilmes of Harvard University revealed in her latest studies (2010) that the disability payments to the Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans could range from $355 billion to $534 billion over the next 40 years. This is in addition to the cost of the medical system, which might be between $201 billion and $348 billion, to treat the vets of both wars. (www.mcclatchyde.com, 12/5/2011).

In a previous study about the cost of the Iraq war, which was conducted by Profession J. Stieglitz of Colombia University and Professor L. Bilmes, it was estimated that the total cost would reach between $2.5 and $3 trillion. Furthermore, Professor Stieglitz, a Nobel Prize winner and economist at Colombia University, pointed out that the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was the first war in U.S. history paid for entirely on credit.

The reckless and irresponsible decision of George W. Bush to go to war unnecessarily is causing a heavy burden on American society, physically, financially and socially. This is the tragedy of the Bush administration’s fabrication of false reports, which they used to mislead the American public in order to gain support for the war. The previous president should be tried for crimes committed, according to international law.

Furthermore, the American congress should also be blamed for giving George W. Bush the green light to invade Iraq. The majority of its members have failed to investigate the secret reports that the president used to justify the Iraq invasion. The president lied and misled the American people by using fabricated secret reports that Saddam Hussein possessed WMD and posed a threat to the security of the U.S., despite the fact that at the time, and according to U.N. reports, Iraq had no nuclear bombs.

It is unfortunate to say that lobbyists who represent big corporations and interest groups influence the majority of the members of congress. In this case, lobbyists representing the military industrial complex have supported the Iraq invasion. In a war situation, the military and defense contracts enhance the margin of their profit. Also, the American oil companies were eager to get into the Iraqi oil fields because Iraq’s oil reserve is the largest in the world.

Other lobbyist groups connected with the neo-cons, such as AIPAC, have played a role in supporting the invasion for the benefit of Israel.

It is unfortunate to point out that the prevailing attitude among many members of the American congress is to be reelected. The lobbyists, whose numbers were estimated to exceed 16,000, are the major contributors to their political campaigns. In this case, I would say personally that this type of money is a source of evil.

The CBS news poll (October 2011) stated that 77% of the respondents favored the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. They also stressed the fact that the war was not worth the loss of young Americans and its enormous cost.

It is also unfortunate to point out that the majority of the reports on the Iraq invasion did not analyze the impact of that war on Iraqi society. In previous posts, information was written regarding this case.

Dec 5, 2011

First Anniversary of the Arab Spring Revolution

One year has passed since the Arab Spring Revolution was ignited in Tunisia in December 2010, and from there it spread, impacting in one way or another the rest of the Arab world.

Several corrupt regimes have been removed from Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. However, the public protests are still going on in Syria, but ultimately the ruling regime will be removed. It is only a matter of time.

In Yemen, despite Ali Saleh’s resignation a week ago based on the Arab Gulf document, protestors are demanding that he be tried for crimes committed and corruption. This is despite the fact that the agreement he signed granted him immunity. His supporters, especially in the army, are still fighting his opponents in Taiz and other parts of Yemen. In Arab states that are under an absolute monarchy, such as Morocco, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, reforms have been minimal despite the impact of the Arab Spring Revolution.

In Jordan and Morocco, where the protestors are still calling for a constitutional monarchy. In Morocco, minimal reforms have been accomplished in the new constitution, which has led to the recent election (Nov. 2011). The Islamic Party (PJD) won 107 seats out of 395. It was also reported that less than 50% of the eligible voters (13 million) casted their votes (45%). Many political parties refused to participate in the election because their political demands were not met.

However, the new Moroccan constitution provided the prime minister more power to form his government, but the king still possesses a wide authority. The political reforms have been minimal and in reality they are a cosmetic type of reform, instead of being fundamental ones.

The political situation in Jordan is still as it was, despite the protestors uprising, which has not produced any significant changes, except for the resignation of Prime Minister M. al-Bakhit.

King Abdullah II asked A. Al-Khasawneh to form a new government in October. King Abdullah was unhappy about the slow political reforms.

The new government, under Prime Minister Al-Khasawneh, is still working with an established commission to add new reforms to the constitution, especially in connection to the election of parliament members. On Friday December 2nd, 2011, the protestors in Amman and other Jordanian cities were calling for government reforms and an end to corruption. How fast the new government will respond to the public’s demand is not clear. Nevertheless, the proposed constitutional reforms, if they take place, will be cosmetic ones and the king’s authority will continue as is. The monarch has asked for the resignation of the cabinet, to be replaced by a new one. This is a move to pacify the public.

Such political tactics have worked in the past. However, the public protestors, which have been going on, on and off, during the past eight months, will not lead to genuine political reform. The Jordanian population is divided in general. One segment consists of Jordanians of Palestinian origin, who constitute a majority, and the second segment constitutes the original Jordanian population. The majority of the Jordanian segment are the major supporters of the king and they also possess more influence in the government and the military.

Nevertheless, the majority of the young protestors tend to come from both groups. How far their protest will go in influencing real political reforms is to be seen.

Saudi Arabia represents the third monarchy that is the most authoritarian and conservative regime in the Arab world. The Saudi royal family controls nearly all branches of the government and is strongly supported by the Wahabi Islamic religious group. This religious group is among the most conservative in the Islamic world.

However, to a certain extent, the Arab Spring Revolution began to influence the younger Saudi generation, who has been calling for more political freedom. The response from the Saudi authority has been harsh and ruthless, especially for the few who have tried to meet and protest.

Nevertheless, King Abdullah’s answer to the younger generation was financial handouts in various forms, especially to the unemployed and the poor. More than $130 billion has been allocated to the creation of new jobs, housing construction and salary increases for government employees.

Regardless of the government financial support, young Saudis are like other young Arabs who want freedom and political reform. A few demonstrations began in defiance of the government ban on protests, and many were arrested and put in jail.

Amnesty International has issued a report (Nov. 30, 2011) accusing the Saudi government of repression against the Arab Spring protestors because thousands of Saudis have been arrested.

Most of the protests took place in the Eastern part of the country, where the majority of the Shiaa minority is located. Saudi law bans national protests and those who have ignored the rules have been sent to jail to serve from five to thirty years. Insulting the integrity of the king carries a prison sentence of 10 years. Amnesty International claims “thousands of people are detained on terrorism related grounds.” (www.bbc.co, 12/1/2011).

The Shiaa minority, which constitutes 10% of the 19 million Saudi Arabian population, has always been a target of discrimination that dates back more than ten centuries. For that reason and others, they have been a target of detention by the government. Any demands for fairness and equality by members of the Shiaa group are viewed as an act of terror.

Amnesty International’s report stated that: The Saudi government has drafted an anti-terror law that would effectively criminalize dissent as a “terrorist crime” and allow extended detention without charge or trial.

Regardless of the ruthlessness of the Saudi regime and their suppression of the public at large in atmosphere absent of democracy, they will eventually face a public uprising. It is only a matter of time before such an uprising takes place. Living a politically closed society is no longer acceptable worldwide.