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.

Mar 25, 2012

Water Shortage in the Arab World - Its Negative Consequences

During the past several years, I have focused on the shortages of fresh water in the Arab world. Nearly all Arab states have fallen below the minimal water need, which is 700 cu.met/person/year according to the U.N. standard. Several Arab states have even fell below the 500 cu.met./person/year , as is the case especially in Jordan and Yemen which are classified among the most water poverty stricken countries.

Furthermore, the shortages of water will get even worse in light of several factors: 1) if the population increases at the same rate, the Arab world population will double from 365 million as of 2011 to nearly over 650 million in the next 25-30 years. According to a recent U.N. report, the consumption of water increased six fold during the last century, while the world population increased three fold during the same period.

2) The global climate changes that have been taking place, which have impacted North Africa and the Middle East region more than any region around the globe. The increase in temperature and the decrease in the annual rainfall led to the frequent droughts in many parts of the Arab world, which lasted in some countries for more than 6-7 years. This also led to more desertification of land. Keep in mind that more than 75% of the land in the Arab world is barren desert that is unsuitable for cultivation. It is unfortunate that urban expansion in the Arab world takes place on agricultural lands, especially in Egypt.

3) The three major rivers that flow in the Arab world – the Nile, the Euphrates, and the Tigress – originate beyond the boundaries of the Arab world. Most of the lands under cultivation depend on rainfall.

4) Nearly 70% of the water in the Arab world is used for agricultural cultivation. The old system of irrigation is still the major method used for cultivation, despite the fact that the flow of water in the three major rivers in the Arab world has been decreasing.

5) The Arab world is considered the number one region in the import of cereal in the world. Recently, it was reported that more than 65 million tons of wheat were imported during 2011. Furthermore, from 2007-2010, food imports increased by 13%.

6) None of the 22 Arab states is sufficient in food production. More than 50% of the food consumed in the Arab world is imported from abroad. The cost of food import has been estimated to exceed $35 billion per year.

Such information is available to the political leadership in the Arab world and they have been discussing it through the regular Arab league meetings. It is regrettable to say that aside from the discussion as usual, no concrete policy has been implemented and put into action regarding the future and present threats of starvation, which millions of people in the Arab world will face. Nearly half of the population in the Arab world is poverty-stricken. Recent reports by the CIA and the U.N. revealed that “by the year 2040, the world will face a shortage of fresh water. The situation will lead to political unrest and will hinder economic growth and will endanger the availability of food in the global market.” Furthermore, the U.N. has issued a report warning the Arab world in particular, who uses 70% of its water resources for cultivation despite the fact that it imports more than 50% of its food needs. The report continued to project that war caused by shortages of water will not lead to armed conflict in the Middle East. However, the situation will lead to political and economic manipulation among neighbor states. (www.nytimes.com, 3/23/2012).

In conclusion, and despite the recommendations issued by various Arab league committees about the present and future threats of water shortages and its impact on food needs, it is unfortunate to say that Arab political leadership has failed to take the warning seriously. Arab oil producing countries, especially in the Gulf region, are short sighted. They have invested over two trillion dollars in foreign countries, especially in the west. They have failed to invest even 10% of their foreign investments in the Arab world, especially in the countries with high populations, like Egypt and others where nearly half the population are living below the poverty index levels. In addition, such an investment will also create millions of jobs for the many young people who are unemployed.

I would like to stress again the fact that the Arab Spring Revolution started by the young Arab college graduates. Many are unemployed. Furthermore, the impact of that revolution has been felt by the entire Arab population, irrespective of where they live. It is about time that Arab wealth is invested in the Arab world, where the challenges are so serious they cannot be ignored.

Mar 20, 2012

The First Anniversary of the January 25, 2011 Egyptian Revolution

Two months ago (Jan. 2012) my wife and I traveled back to Egypt and were happy to participate as eyewitnesses to the first anniversary of the Egyptian revolution (2/11/2012). During the two months in Cairo, we met with friends and relatives. We also visited the American University campus and talked with old colleagues and some students. We were invited to participate in an open discussion with some young people who were among the activists in Tahrir Square, as well as with some members of the Kifayah Party. Personally, I was interested in getting people’s reactions and views of the revolution’s accomplishments during its first year, since the collapse of the previous corrupt regime.

There is no doubt that the Egyptian revolution was a major accomplishment for the Egyptian people, who were harshly suppressed for more than three decades. The young generation who led the revolution were born during the corrupt rule of Hosni Mubarak. They have seen and experienced how Egypt was run by a small mafia who were associated with the regime that controlled the country politically, economically, and even religiously, with an iron fist.

The younger generation has seen Egypt as a satellite for the U.S. and Israeli governments and being marginalized politically and economically in the Middle East in general and the Arab world in particular.

Nevertheless, during the past year, Egypt began to regain its traditional role as the leader of the Arab world and an active major power in the Middle East region. There are other major accomplishments that took place during the first year after the revolution. The following changes occurred:

1) A new and freely elected parliament for the first time since the 1950s. Also a freely elected Shura Council.

2) A new date has been set for the election of a new president. This will be the first president in the history of Egypt. On March 10, 2012, the official nomination for candidates for the position of president began. By the end of June, the newly elected president will assume his role officially.

3) Nearly a dozen or more high-ranking public officials have been prosecuted and received jail sentences. Others, such as Mubarak, his two sons, and others, are waiting for the court to announce its verdict on June 2, 2012.

These are among the major accomplishments that took place since the fall of the previous regime. In the mean time, not all objectives of the revolution have been completed yet. The expected reforms are being stalled due to the influence of the Egyptian Higher Military Council, who has failed to push for the drastic reforms the younger generation is calling for. The younger generation has been marginalized for the benefit of the old political parties. It is no longer a hidden fact that the Muslim Brotherhood struck a deal with the Egyptian Higher Military Council to accommodate each other’s political objectives.

In the mean time, the influence of the previous regime still exists, which has been experienced in different types of counter revolutionary acts. The latest was the Port Said massacre, and prior to that similar counter revolutionary acts took place, such as the Masparo attacks, the Mohammad Mahmoud Street, the Ministry of Interior, and the Prime Minister’s headquarters. All of these attacks were referred to by security as acts committed by a third group.

The Egyptian Higher Military Council has failed to cleanse the system from the influence of the previous regime. An example of this is the Ministry of Interior, which experienced the appointments of three ministers in one year. The police and security are not visible in the streets, and the Baltagiah (hoodlums) have a free hand in robbing people, banks, and in some cases blocking main roads to steal. Cars are a major target of theft, where some people can retrieve their stolen cars by paying a certain sum of money set by the thieves. The Ministry of Interior, as well as the judicial system, needs to be cleansed from those who were appointed by the previous regime.

There is no doubt that the Egyptian revolution, despite the negative consequences, is still viewed as a major success by comparison to other revolutions. The Egyptian revolution, which was backed by military forces that protected the people, was a major contribution to the collapse of the Mubarak regime. The first stage of the revolution was a total success.

However, the stages that followed reflect that the Egyptian Higher Military council was not ready to surrender their authority for a civilian one. After all, they have been in power for the last sixty years, and were part of the previous corrupt regime. Many of the problems that Egyptian society has been experiencing since the fall of the previous regime could have been avoided. The military council should have appointed a civilian transitional president to prepare for a smooth transition focused on the following:

1) The drafting of a new constitution by legal experts, especially academics in constitutional law. This could have voided the conflict that has been going on by those who have won the majority in parliament.

2) The election of the members of parliament should have been based on equal representation that reflects the demographic composition of the Egyptian population in terms of the gender ratio and adequate representation the Coptic community.

A quick look at the result of the election of the Egyptian parliament reflects an insult to democracy and common sense. Fifty percent of the Egyptian population consists of women. Only 8 women were elected out of the more than 505 members. How many Copts were elected? How many young people, who were the vanguard of the revolution, were elected?

These are among the major mistakes the members of the Egyptian Higher Military Council have committed. We hope that the future civilian government will assume real power to rectify some of the political mistakes that were made during the transitional period. The political model that will emerge in Egypt will have an important impact on the rest of the Arab world.

Netanyahu’ s Belligerent War Demands

At the recent AIPAC annual convention in Washington, President Obama addressed the audience and assured them of the U.S.’s continuous support of Israel. The second major speaker was the Israeli Prime Minister, B. Netanyahu, who focused on Iranian nuclear threats to Israel. He stressed the need for the U.S. to join Israel and bomb Iran’s nuclear reactor. However, President Obama stressed a more diplomatic approach.

During the past three years, the relationship between both men has been cold due to the lack of cooperation in solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Mr. Netanyahu refused to freeze the construction of Jewish settlements as a pre-condition to starting peace negotiations with the Palestinians. Furthermore, Mr. Netanyahu snubbed President Obama on several occasions and, as usual, gets the automatic political support from the majority of members of the U.S. Congress. These members put Israeli interest ahead of American national interest.

Mr. Netanyahu’s strategy is to pressure President Obama to join the war against Iran and spread negative remarks that will lead to the president’s defeat in the upcoming election. All the Republican presidential candidates (with the exception of Ron Paul) support Netanyahu’s aggressive policy. The tragedy of such a reaction on the part of American politicians is the fact that the majority of the Israeli population is against bombing Iran’s nuclear reactors. The Haaretz Newspaper revealed that 58% of Israelis are against the attack and only 26% are supportive (N.Y.T., 3/14/12).

Furthermore, it was reported that many Israeli politicians, academics, and high-ranking military leaders, including the previous Mossad chief Meir Dagan, are rejecting Netanyahu’s war policy and think it will be more dangerous to Israel than it is for Iran to have a nuclear bomb. It is very strange to see that Netanyahu’s strategy is being supported by AIPAC, Jewish Zionist organizations, and the American neocon groups, and that they are calling for the bombing of Iran’s nuclear reactors.

The Washington Post (3/12/12) revealed that Krouthammer, who represents the super-hawk wing of the Post’s neocon-dominated editorial section, took special umbrage with a background quote one of Obama’s advisors who said, “We are trying to make the decision to attack as a hard as possible for Israel.” Krouthammer deemed that remark “revealing and shocking”.

The article continued to state that for Krouthammer, Obama’s only right answer to Netanyahu’s belligerent demands who have been a blank check to be paid for by the American military and U.S. taxpayers.

It seems that the American Zionist neocons have failed to learn a lesson from their previous reckless and completely iniquitous political strategies when they pushed the U.S. to go to war in both Afghanistan and Iraq for the benefit of Israel. Their strategies have been based on false and fabricated reports to mislead the American people. The reports were not investigated and were accepted by the majority of the members of the American Congress.

It is unfortunate to say that the politically illiterate Americans end up paying a heavy price physically and financially in both wars. More than six thousand American soldiers have died in vain and more than 40,000 have been injured. In addition, there is the financial cost, which has been estimated to exceed 4 trillion dollars in taxpayer money. As Professor J. Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize winner, puts it: it was the first war in the history of the U.S. that was fought on a credit card.

Mr. Netanyahu and his supporters in the U.S. have no concern about the American national interest. What the U.S. president should do is address the American people about the campaign conducted against him by the supporters of Mr. Netanyahu’s war policy. Recent polls reflect a negative reaction against President Obama due to the increase in oil prices. The president should address the American public and explain that situation of oil price increases is attributed to the threat of Netanyahu bombing Iran’s nuclear reactors and that the Wall Street speculators and gamblers who take advantage of such situations as usual in order to make a rapid and hefty profit. After all, the oil-producing countries have nothing to do with oil price increases.

Two years ago, similar things occurred when the oil prices reached $4 per gallon. The issue was raised by the press and members of congress promised to investigate the oil price increases. Later, it was reported that congress came up with a plan to deal with such situations, but they never implemented their decision. It is unfortunate to say that the majority of the members of congress will align themselves with the devil if it ensures their re-elections.

In conclusion, Mr. Netanyahu’s policy about the threat of Iran’s nuclear bomb to Israel is to distract the Israeli and the world public opinion from what is going on in Israel, and to cover Netanyahu’s failures and aggressive behavior toward the Palestinians. Israeli expansion in the occupied Palestinian lands continues with the blessing of American politicians.

Mar 6, 2012

The Kneeling Egyptian Pharaoh

A caricature appeared in the Egyptian media, showing the Egyptian Pharaoh kneeling in front of the American Statue of Liberty. What this really means is the fact that the Egyptian government has caved to the American government’s demands and released the 19 Americans who were accused of violating Egyptian law. The case was taken away from the Egyptian Criminal Court and the 19 Americans accused were bailed out and permitted to leave Egypt on an American military plane that landed at Cairo airport without permit.

This incident enraged the Egyptians. It led to a protest movement in front of the American embassy in Cairo.

The speaker of the Egyptian parliament, Dr. El Katatny, promised an investigation of this interference in the Egyptian judicial system to find out who are the responsible people involved in the case. He set March 11th, 2012, as a special Parliament session to investigate the case.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian mass media has been focusing on this case and accusing the most powerful political groups - the Egyptian Higher Military Council and the Muslim Brotherhood.

I regrettably maintain that the Egyptian Revolution has been stolen, despite the free election of a new parliament and the Shura Council. Many of the revolutionary demands have not been implemented yet and Egypt is entering a dark tunnel that might lead to another revolution.

One of the major demands of the revolution was the restoration of Egypt freedom and dignity from foreign interferences, especially by the American government.

The release of the American accused individuals reflects the fact that Egypt is still under the thumb of American’s government influence. The later has been threatening to cut US foreign Aid to Egypt. For those who are not aware of the details of American Aid, I would like to point out the fact that the US benefits more from the aids than Egypt.

Second, American politicians in general are not well informed about the relation between countries that the US is dealing with, especially in the Middle East region and in particular the Arab world.

Many politicians are short sighted and tend to fall under the pressure of lobbyists who represent interest groups and multi-National Co-operations whose financial contributions is essential for their re-elections. The consequences of such American foreign policy are harmful in the long run to the American national interests. Also it produces negative reactions in foreign countries where the US is involved. There is no doubt that every country looks after its own national interest. However, when the interest is shared with other countries ‘ national interests, it would contribute to political stability, which will be of beneficial to all. Unfortunately, the US, political interferences in the Arab world, especially during the past six decades has been un-democratic and supportive of corrupt authoritarian regimes.

Frequently, American politicians use the rational that its aim is to spread democracy This is a justification for their interferences in the internal affairs of other countries as was the case for the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The Christian Science Monitor recently stated that there is no democracy in Iraq. It is only on paper and is not being implemented. The American public tends to fall for such rational.

The three American organizations that went to Egypt to help Egyptian and prepare them to ‘practice democracy’ should have done this in the US instead of Egypt.

It is of interest to read some of the remarks made recently by the Senator from Maine, Olympia Snowe. She stated that after 40 years in the Senate she is not seeking re-election. One of the major rational she used is that “the Senate is not living up to what the Founding Fathers envisioned”, and if “the people in the US raise their voices, they will solve the nation’s most urgent challenges”

America’s challenges at home is more threatening to its security, than the challenges abroad.