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World Press (12 Sep 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)



Big Oil, Failed Democracy and the World’s Shame in Myanmar: New Age Islam’s selection, 12 September 2017


New Age Islam Edit Bureau


11 September 2017


Will Iran do it the North Korean way?

Mashari Althaydi

Is Hamad bin Khalifa obstructing Qatar’s return to Gulf fold?

Sawsan Al Shaer

The 'War On Terror' Has Won

By Charles Davis

Was Hezbollah-backed deal with Daesh a jab at Lebanese army?

By Nicholas Blanford

So Many Libyan Peace Plans, So Little Peace

By Saudi Gazette

Escape from Hurricane Irma was not an option for most of us in the Caribbean

By Gabrielle Thongs

Remembering the Disappeared

By Ariel Dorfman

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://newageislam.com/world-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/big-oil,-failed-democracy-and-the-world’s-shame-in-myanmar--new-age-islam’s-selection,-12-september-2017/d/112495

 

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Big Oil, Failed Democracy and the World’s Shame in Myanmar

By Ramzy Baroud

11 September 2017

Aung San Suu Kyi, the “great humanitarian,” seems to have run out of integrity as the UN finally confirms that what is happening to the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar is ethnic cleansing.

Suu Kyi has not even had the moral courage to utter a few words of sympathy for the victims. Instead, she could only say: “We have to take care of everybody who is in our country.”

Meanwhile, her spokesman and other mouthpieces launched a campaign of vilification against the Rohingya, accusing them of burning their own villages and fabricating their own rape stories.

But well documented reports give us more than a glimpse of the harrowing reality experienced by the Rohingya. Fleeing refugees who made it to Bangladesh after a nightmarish journey spoke of the murder of children, the rape of women and the burning of villages. Some of these accounts have been verified through satellite images provided by Human Rights Watch, showing wiped out villages throughout the state.

Certainly, the fate of the Rohingya is not entirely new. But what makes it particularity pressing is that the West is now fully on the side of the very government that is carrying out these atrocious acts. And there is a reason for that: Oil.

Massive deposits untapped because of the Western boycott of Myanmar’s junta are now available to the highest bidder. It is a bonanza, and all are invited. Shell, ENI, Total, Chevron and many others are investing large sums, while the Chinese — who dominated Myanmar’s economy for many years — are being slowly pushed out.

It is this wealth, and the need to undermine China’s superpower status in Asia, that has brought the West back and installed Suu Kyi as leader in a country that has never fundamentally changed, but only rebranded itself to pave the road for the return of ‘Big Oil.’

However, the Rohingya are paying the price. Do not let Myanmar’s official propaganda mislead you. The Rohingya are not foreigners, intruders or immigrants. Their kingdom of Arakan dates from the 8th century. They learned about Islam from Arab traders and, with time, it became a Muslim-majority region.

Arakan is Myanmar’s modern-day Rakhine state, where most of the estimated 1.2 million Rohingya still live. The false notion that the Rohingya are outsiders started in 1784 when the King conquered Arakan and forced hundreds of thousands to flee.

Attacks on Rohingya, and constant attempts at driving them out of Rakhine, have continued. This happened after the Japanese defeat of British forces in Burma in 1942; in 1948; after the military takeover in 1962; and in 1977, when the junta drove over 200,000 Rohingya out of their homes to Bangladesh.

In 1982, the junta passed a law that stripped most Rohingya of their citizenship, declaring them illegal in their own country.

The war on the Rohingya began again in 2012. Every single episode, since then, has followed a typical narrative: Clashes between Buddhist nationalists and Rohingya, often leading to tens of thousands of the latter being chased out to the Bay of Bengal, to the jungles and, those who survive, to refugee camps.

Amid international silence, only a few respected figures such as Pope Francis spoke out in support of the Rohingya. They are good people, the Pope said in a deeply moving prayer last February. “They are peaceful people, and they are our brothers and sisters.” His call for justice was never heeded.

Meanwhile Arab and Muslim countries remained largely silent, despite a public outcry to do something to end the genocide. With access to the reality through their many emissaries on the ground, Western governments know only too well about the indisputable facts, but ignore them anyway. When US, European and Japanese corporations lined up to exploit the treasures of Myanmar, all they needed was the nod of approval from the US government. The Barack Obama administration hailed Myanmar’s opportunities even before the 2015 elections brought Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy to power. After that date, Myanmar became another American success story, oblivious, of course, to the facts that genocide has been underway there for years.

The violence in Myanmar is likely to escalate and reach other ASEAN countries, simply because the two main ethnic and religious groups in these countries are dominated and almost evenly split between Buddhists and Muslims.

The triumphant return of the West to exploit Myanmar’s wealth and the US-Chinese rivalries are likely to complicate the situation even further, if ASEAN does not end its appalling silence and move with a determined strategy to pressure the Myanmar government to end its genocide of the Rohingya.

People around the world must take a stand. Religious communities should speak out. Human rights groups should do more to document the crimes of the Myanmar government and hold to account those who supply them with weapons.

Respected South African Bishop Desmond Tutu had strongly admonished Suu Kyi for turning a blind eye to the ongoing genocide.

It is the least we expect from the man who stood up to apartheid in his own country, and wrote the famous words: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

• Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His forthcoming book is ‘The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story’ (Pluto Press). Baroud has a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter and is a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, University of California. Visit his website: ramzybaroud.net.

arabnews.com/node/1159486

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Will Iran do it the North Korean way?

Mashari Althaydi

11 September 2017

Imagine if the Iranian Khomeinite republic possesses the nuclear power, which Pyongyang’s strongman has. After the tests, which Kim Jong-un carried out in the skies and waters of the Pacific Ocean and across Japan, fears of nuclear annihilation re-emerged.

The Korean nuclear missile fired over Japan had its own significance as the people of Nagasaki and Hiroshima suffered after the atomic bomb was dropped there in World War II. What is the West doing with North Korea?

What’s strange is that the West which is geographically far from the Korean island – and of course from Japan and South Korea – is the most worried and occupied with its nuclear and hydrogen bombs. The rest of the Asian countries and Arab countries do not care about Kim’s rounds. So is it courage or despair?

The Iranian regime may be the most concerned in Pyongyang tests. Few days ago, and following the nuclear and hydrogen missile tests, the chairman of the North Korean Supreme People’s Assembly visited Tehran accompanied with a military and technological delegation.

Admiring North Korea

The Iranian republic’s current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei admires North Korea since he was in the ministry of defense after the Khomeinite republic was established. This is according to what Amir Taheri explained in one of his articles published in this daily.

It is said that Iran is restrained by an agreement that prohibits uranium enrichment – an agreement reached with the blessing of former American President Barack Obama and upon the Europeans’ enthusiasm, mainly German leader Angela Merkel.

In an interview with the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine, Chancellor Merkel enthusiastically suggested cloning the Iranian model with North Korea and said she is willing to participate in a diplomatic initiative to end North Korea’s nuclear program and missiles’ program on condition that the nuclear negotiations with Iran are a model.

Desire in the agreement

What is ironic is that Iran lost the desire in this agreement and is threatening to exit it. In an interview with the German daily Der Spiegel, Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, showed Iran’s teeth and displayed Sasanian pride and said: “If the US leaves the treaty and Europe follows… Iran will go back to what it was before.”

What successful model does Merkel want to market to us? Shall people in the Gulf and other countries rest assured based on illusions until they wake up one day to an Iranian nuclear test in the Indian Ocean for instance?

In all cases, the Khomeinite Iran is dangerous with or without nuclear power. However, with nuclear power, it’s more dangerous than North Korea and this is because of the Iranian regime’s violating doctrine. A resolute man is he who expects evil before it happens.

_________________

Saudi journalist Mashari Althaydi presents Al Arabiya News Channel’s “views on the news” daily show “Maraya.” He has previously held the position of a managing senior editor for Saudi Arabia & Gulf region at pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. Althaydi has published several papers on political Islam and social history of Saudi Arabia. He appears as a guest on several radio and television programs to discuss the ideologies of extremist groups and terrorists. He tweets under @MAlthaydy.

english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/09/11/Will-Iran-do-it-the-North-Korean-way-.html

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Is Hamad bin Khalifa obstructing Qatar’s return to Gulf fold?

Sawsan Al Shaer

11 September 2017

We wait for the day when Qatar returns as an Arab country to its strategic depth and Gulf fold. We hope the day comes when we celebrate this return together.

However, this cannot be achieved by voicing hopes. It has become clear that as long as Hamad bin Khalifa is present, he will not let Qatar return to its fold. This is based on evidence and we must deal with the situation accordingly.

The issue is also not about opposing media campaigns. It is actually governed by a firm decision taken by Hamad bin Khalifa, which stipulates that Qatar will not return to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) after his project has been exposed.

Meanwhile, Tamim will not be given a chance to decide Qatar’s future. During the past 48 hours, Tamim made promises to the Emir of Kuwait but his father broke these promises half an hour later by instructing the foreign minister to deny what happened. The best comment I heard about this is that the phone is in Tamim’s hand and the laptop is in Hamad’s lap.

After this, a mediator is advised to reach a final agreement with Hamad bin Khalifa directly. The mediator can then decide what to convey to the four boycotting countries. He must not waste his precious time with Emir Tamim or embarrass himself. Unfortunately, this is the truth, which the entire world learnt in the past two days.

A chance to govern

We were hoping that Emir Tamim will be given a chance to govern Qatar via a new approach that clears out what his father and prime minister have done and turn a new page so things go back to normal. We were hoping the father will give his son this chance and not obstruct his vision for the future. We were hoping the father would let his son be honest and keep his promises; however his authoritarianism destroyed all respect people had toward his son.

The world now knows that Hamad bin Khalifa will never let Tamim govern and that Qatar will not return to its brothers as long as he is involved. He will not even let any of Tamim’s brothers govern. Even if Tamim is replaced by his brother Jawaan, or another brother, the decision will still be the father’s.

Hamad bin Khalifa, the team of Azmi and the Muslim Brotherhood will have the final say in Qatar. This is what we have learnt after three months of the crisis. The Qatari people, al-Thani and Qatar have been hijacked and are held captives by those assigned to execute “the project of toppling regimes.”

This hijacking will end only if the 13 demands are met. Once implemented, these will remove power from the hands of Hamad bin Khalifa and undermine his tools. Tamim will thus get rid of his father’s authoritarianism and Qatar will go back to its Arab and Gulf brothers.

Tamim’s father will not let Tamim keep his promises no matter how many of these he makes to Kuwait’s Emir or to Trump. This is the truth which mediators must acknowledge and which we are already aware of.

Sawsan Al Shaer is a Bahraini writer and journalist. She tweets under the handle @sawsanalshaer.

english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/09/11/Is-Hamad-bin-Khalifa-obstructing-Qatar-s-return-to-Gulf-fold-.html

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The 'War On Terror' Has Won

By Charles Davis

There's a playbook for committing atrocities and being absolved of them. It wasn't written by George W Bush, now a retired painter of dogs in the US state of Texas, but it was popularised and legitimised by his administration at the dawn of the 21st century. And the world today, with its multiple bloody wars on terror fought by allies and foes of Washington alike, sometimes begrudgingly together, reflects this bequeathment.

Terrorism is a useful foe. Wars against it need not be declared, and combatants need not be defined. Traditional warfare, with a uniformed opponent, brings with it the not always avoidable bureaucracy of international law; lawyers saying you can't shoot this or that. No conflict is outside the law, at least on paper. However, an amorphous tactic can't file a petition at The Hague, and when every power of note is on the same page with respect to the need to kill shadowy non-state actors, extrajudicially, it's smart statecraft to adopt the rubric of the war on terror, with modern flourishes.

"Fake news". That's the new line in 2017, deployed by Nobel laureate and leader of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi on September 6 to characterise reports of mass murder against the Rohingya people, a mostly Muslim ethnic minority considered unworthy of legal rights by her government. Nearly a quarter-million people have fled largely Buddhist Myanmar in the last year, over half in the last two weeks following a crackdown by security forces engaged in a claimed war against Islamic terror.

Thousands have been killed, with refugees and journalists on the ground reporting horrific scenes: mobs and Myanmar's armed forces burning down Rohingya villages, those who aren't killed driven away by the tens of thousands to Bangladesh, another country whose government doesn't want them, and only then if they can get by the landmines placed along the border by the military that's exterminating them.

These accounts are widespread, but those who wish to defend the perpetrators of such acts are savvy: they don't defend them, but rather dwell on the typos they find in a war crimes indictment. That means reserving the thrust of one's anger for those who circulate misinformation, a problem during any conflict - apologists for the Khmer Rouge, some still active today, indicted the mainstream narrative about mass death in revolutionary Cambodia by noting The Washington Post's publication of fake photos - but one made all the easier in an unverifiable age of instantaneity.

Aung San Suu Kyi blamed "terrorists" for sharing those photos today. It's "simply the tip of the iceberg of misinformation," she said in a Facebook post, "with the aim of promoting the interests of terrorists," an unsurprising goal for misinforming terrorists. The dull math of a war on a terror (them vs us = whose side are you on?) does not allow for much artistic freelancing, so redundancy may be excused.

Russian state media, representing a government that sells arms to Myanmar, appears to just be repeating stock footage. According to Sputnik and RT, George Soros, the billionaire financier, is the wealthy Jew behind this new war, apparently in search of another bloody pipeline - mirroring the conspiratorial explanation for revolution-turned-war in Syria. On Global Research, a pro-Russia Infowars for a conspiracy-mongering left, one may read that "Saudi jihadists" are behind the crisis.

Bush, likewise, blamed everything but his own actions for the insurgency in Iraq. "No act of ours invited the rage of the killers," he told the National Endowment for Democracy in 2005. Rather, "Islamic radicalism," he said during the height of attacks on US troops, is enabled by "allies of convenience like Syria and Iran that share the goal of hurting America," and "use terrorist propaganda" to magnify the impact of their support.

In that, Bush wasn't all wrong: Syria did indeed facilitate the transit of jihadists to Iraq. That led the Bush administration to send terror suspects to Damascus, where they were dutifully tortured, even as the US president admonished the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Iran, too, aided Iraqi insurgents, but neither government created the insurgency: the 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation did that. Now, today, both Tehran and Damascus echo the war on terror rhetoric of old, blaming the insurgency in Syria on outside actors - in the case of Iran, actors other than themselves - while denying any agency or cause to those fighting them.

Part of it is there are only so many forms that apologism for war crimes can take; the practice necessitates imitation and repetition. A cartoon that originates in Israel, depicting an Israeli soldier protecting a mother while an armed Palestinian hides behind one, has been repurposed by those who preach resistance to Israeli aggression, shared by partisans of Syria's Assad as well as Egypt's Sisi, both of whom are waging self-styled wars on terror in need of excuses for civilian deaths. On Twitter, where hearts and minds are now won, a similar cartoon has been rolled out by supporters of Myanmar's genocidal military.

These supporters are echoing governments whose intent is not just to justify, to their own choir, but to attract new and more powerful support - from other states. Assad, for example, has made resistance to US imperialism key to his brand, blaming it for the insurgency that developed after he tried to bomb and torture his way out of reform. But asked about his own support for the "so-called American war on terrorism" under Bush, when "Syria used to help the CIA in the rendition programme and interrogating and torturing people," he didn't even challenge the terminology.

Syria, he said, has long called for "international cooperation to fight terrorism," he said. "That's why we've always been ready to help and cooperate with any country that wants to fight terrorism. And for that reason, we helped the Americans, and we are always ready to join any country which is sincere about fighting terrorism."

There's always a fight over what constitutes terrorism and who is a terrorist, but by framing their internal conflicts as a war on terror, one makes a familiar appeal to a built-in audience. Mentioning "Islamists" and its variants triggers a Pavlovian alt-morality: the mass murder happens in the context of a recognisable, civilisational struggle, enabling greater acceptance of casualty counts while increasing the chance of killing, cooperatively, alongside the globe's leading powers. When the US government finally made good on a threat to bomb Syria, those bombs fell on just about everyone but the regime and its allies, friendly fire and a bruised runway aside.

As US President Donald Trump, asked about the Assad regime's repeated use of chemical weapons, explained at a September 7 press conference, "We have very little to do with Syria, other than killing ISIS." While the regime is responsible for the majority of civilian dead, "What we do is kill ISIS," which, of course, means killing more civilians still.

A war on extremism can't be won on propaganda and military might alone - an insurgency, defeated, is often resurrected, more extremely, when the grievances it exploits aren't remedied. But the war on terror logic and rhetoric spreads with the imprimatur of the US and its official enemies, confusing those whose politics are based on reflexive and binary opposition to one or the other. It spreads in part because states that commit acts of state terrorism can exploit an international system which values the sovereign right of states to terrorise much more than people and their rights.

Every terroriser with a seat at the UN has learned the tune, and the wars keep humming along. Bush's regime change in Iraq gave rise to the forces and political dynamics that would make stability and a regime's preservation the overriding concern of left, right and centre. As hundreds of thousands of dead civilians and thousands more living through war crimes can attest, from Yemen to Syria and Iraq to Myanmar, the "war on terror" has won.

Charles Davis is a writer currently based in Los Angeles.

aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2017/09/war-terror-won-george-bush-doctrine-170911082005701.html

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Was Hezbollah-backed deal with Daesh a jab at Lebanese army?

By Nicholas Blanford

September 11, 2017

In exchange for safe passage of 300 militants and families Daesh agreed to reveal the locations where nine Lebanese soldiers were buried

On the distant skyline of Tallet Qarah, an imposing mountain of barren limestone studded with a handful of juniper trees in northeast Lebanon, a small convoy of pick-up trucks and jeeps, windows flashing in the brilliant sunshine, crawled over the ridge and into neighbouring Syria.

The vehicles were carrying the last of the several hundred Daesh militants who for more than three years controlled a swathe of desolate mountains in this corner of Lebanon.

Their departure marked the culmination of a week-long offensive by the Lebanese army to remove the extremist group from Lebanese soil. But its climax saw the surviving militants allowed to leave Lebanon and an adjacent area of Syria under a controversial cease-fire deal brokered by the Iran-backed Shiite Hezbollah organisation.

In exchange for the safe passage of some 300 militants and their families to eastern Syria, Daesh agreed to reveal the locations where nine Lebanese soldiers, captured by Daesh in 2014 and subsequently executed, were buried. Harsh reactions to the deal came from several quarters, including Iraq, which said Daesh militants should have been killed on the battlefield, rather than be given safe transport to the Syria-Iraq border, as well as Christian Lebanese critics of Hezbollah, who voiced suspicions about the Shia group's motives. US military officials involved in the battle against Daesh also decried the safe-passage agreement.

The cease-fire deal marred what is otherwise hailed as the Lebanese army's most successful and efficient military operation in more than two decades, and it underlines the complex relationship of simmering rivalry and awkward coordination that exists between the national army and Hezbollah, itself a powerful military force.

Lebanon is a tiny country with a complex sectarian power-sharing system of compromises and quid pro quos to help maintain communal peace. The balance between the Lebanese army and Hezbollah is a component of this fragile system. Over the past decade, as both Hezbollah and the army have grown stronger, the two entities have jostled uneasily to find a means of accommodating each other.

The army is the recipient of substantial military assistance in terms of weapons, equipment, and training from the US and other countries. The US alone has delivered $1.5 billion in assistance since 2005. But Hezbollah refuses to surrender its weapons and has long maintained that only its doctrine of warfare is suitable to defend the country.

Critics ask what is the point of maintaining military aid to Lebanon if Hezbollah remains the strongest force in the country. The military's defenders, however, say that the recent defeat of Daesh in northern Lebanon shows the support programme for the Lebanese Army is working and should be increased.

"Rather than viewing external military aid to Lebanon as a waste of time, the (Lebanese Army) has proven itself as one of the few positive returns on investment when it comes to how countries like the US can credibly support representative military partners in the Middle East," says Aram Nerguizian, a senior associate at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Israel, however, has repeatedly accused the Lebanese army of collaborating with Hezbollah. Last week, Israel told the United Nations peacekeeping force in south Lebanon, known as UNIFIL, that a Lebanese major serving in the south was in fact a "liaison officer" for Hezbollah and demanded his removal.

The army denied the accusation, accusing Israel of "fabricated reports" and maintaining that it worked only with UNIFIL in south Lebanon.

Still, Hezbollah has a large level of support in Lebanon and it should come as no surprise that some in the army will endorse the party's anti-Israel credo. On the other hand, there are officers and soldiers that bristle at Hezbollah's military and political power and are uncomfortable with sharing responsibilities of national defense with a non-state actor.

The recent battles in northeast Lebanon against Daesh and Jabhat Fateh ash-Sham (JFS), formerly Al Qaeda's representative in Syria, illustrate this point. The two factions have controlled the territory to the east of the Sunni town of Arsal and the Christian village of Ras Baalbek since 2014.

Earlier this year, speculation mounted that the Lebanese army was preparing an offensive to drive the militants out of Lebanon once and for all. It would be an opportunity for the military to showcase its new capabilities and armaments after a decade of international support. But it was Hezbollah that took the lead, launching an attack in mid-July against JFS positions east of Arsal.

The Lebanese Army was left on the sidelines, looking on as Hezbollah scored a battlefield triumph. Critics of Hezbollah accused it of deliberately upstaging the army, noting that the launch of the offensive coincided with a trip to Washington by Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri who was attempting to persuade the US to uphold the military assistance programme.

Eyes turned toward Daesh, which was deployed across the mountainous Lebanon-Syria border.

The Lebanese army launched its own offensive against Daesh east of Ras Baalbek on August 20 with a careful announcement that it would not coordinate its campaign with Hezbollah or the Syrian military. But Hezbollah simultaneously declared its own battle against Daesh from the Syrian side of the border, creating a perception that the two-pronged attack was coordinated.

After only four days, the army had broken the back of the Daesh militants, using laser-guided artillery munitions, air power, and ground troop maneuvers to force the survivors into retreating to a valley on the border. The offensive was the most complex and successful carried out by the Lebanese army in decades.

But as the Lebanese Army closed in for the kill, Hezbollah announced it had struck a deal with Daesh that allowed the trapped militants to escape death or capture and instead travel in a convoy of buses to the Syria-Iraq border.

Hariri, the prime minister, justified the decision as having spared the Army further loss of life and ensured the return of the bodies of nine Lebanese soldiers executed by the militants. But it also provoked accusations that Hezbollah had deliberately upstaged the Army in its moment of triumph to convey the impression that the Army alone cannot defend Lebanon against external threats. There is also widespread unhappiness that Daesh militants have been allowed to escape justice.

"Hezbollah's stance toward the (Daesh) convoy is surprising, abnormal and bizarre, and it raises questions, doubts, and suspicions," Samir Geagea, leader of the Lebanese Forces, a Christian party that opposes Hezbollah, tweeted over the weekend.

Even Shia-populated areas, where support runs high for Hezbollah, have been dismayed that Daesh militants were allowed to flee. These areas in recent years have been battered by suicide bombings and rocket attacks perpetrated by Daesh and other like-minded groups.

While both the Lebanese army and Hezbollah have claimed a share of the glory in ridding Lebanon of Daesh and JFS, the question of how these two militaries will continue to live with each other remains unresolved.

khaleejtimes.com/editorials-columns/was-hezbollah-backed-deal-with-daesh-a-jab-at-lebanese-army

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So Many Libyan Peace Plans, So Little Peace

By Saudi Gazette

IN some ways, the official photos of the African Union’s latest mini-summit on Libya said it all. Right at the front stood Congo-Brazzaville’s President Denis Sassou Nguesso who was hosting the meeting. To one side of him stood South African President Jacob Zuma. But at first glance there was no sign of the Libyan delegations.

Closer inspection revealed Libya’s internationally-backed Presidency Council (PC) chief Faiez Serraj craning to look over Nguesso’s shoulder. Of Ageela Saleh, the president of the elected parliament, the House of Representatives (HoR), hardly anything could be seen but the top of his head behind Zuma.

Whether Nguesso meant it or not — and if he didn’t he was extremely badly advised — he turned what ought to have been a crucial meeting about Libya into a photo opportunity for himself and Zuma. This had the effect of undermining the hard work put in by the everyday members of the AU’s High Level Committee on Libya in seeking to broker a peace deal among Libya’s deadly rivals. The new chief of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Lebanese academic Ghassan Salamé, was pictured standing on the edge of the group. His apparently strained expression suggested he was not particularly happy with the ill-conceived arrangement of this photo-shoot. Saleh and Serraj should have been at the front of the assembled dignitaries because they and their country were who the meeting was all about.

It was also of course also about Libya’s eastern strongman Field Marshal Khalifa Hafter. But he had chosen to boycott the mini-summit preferring that Saleh should represent the views of the east. Given that Hafter and Serraj had had an apparently successful meeting last month in Paris, organized by new French president Emmanuel Macon, this was clearly a disappointment.

But there was perhaps another reason for the look of frustration on UNSMIL chief Salamé’s face. Libya has become the subject of a series of urgent separate peace initiatives which do not appear to be coordinated through his office. The Dutch started off in June with an unexpected hosting of a meeting in The Hague between delegations from the HoR and the State Council, which under the proposed Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) would be a senior parliamentary chamber with a largely consultative role. Then came Macron’s initiative where he persuaded Serraj and Hafter to shake hands on a commitment to an immediate ceasefire, early elections and the legitimacy of an amended LPA as the basis for all negotiations.

Macron’s also unexpected diplomacy infuriated the Italians who have always regarded themselves, its former colonial power and long-standing commercial partner, as Libya’s peace broker. So angry was Italian premier Paolo Gentiloni that Serraj felt obliged to stop off in Rome on his way back from Paris for talks on the tide of illegal migrants flowing across the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy.

There has also been a peace initiative from the Russians who appear to be now working with the French. There is a suspicion that Libyan players have been arbitraging the various international offers — with Italy now allegedly paying people-smuggling militias to suspend their loathsome trade. None of this is in the least bit helpful to Salamé who will shortly be presenting to the UN Security Council his own plan for Libya.

saudigazette.com.sa/article/516982/Opinion/Editorial/Libya

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Escape from Hurricane Irma was not an option for most of us in the Caribbean

By Gabrielle Thongs

11 September 2017

The winds and rain came first, usual for this time of year. Crops drown in the sodden earth, the price of vegetables and fruits in the market rises and, as the rain and wind beat down on the tin roofs and wooden frames of many of our homes, communities bear down for more. Torrential storms, gushing flood waters and devastated infrastructure come next, and lives are lost in their wake. Evacuation is not an option for most citizens of the Caribbean. Instead of escape, survival is a matter of endurance.

What were predictable changes to the wet or dry months in the Caribbean are now increasingly irregular weather patterns, bringing serious weather events that demand more resources and attention to mitigate escalating damage, including loss of life. There is widespread agreement in the region, based on meteorological data as well as lived experience, that Caribbean seasons, noteworthy for shifts in temperature and precipitation, are changing. As residents in the region, sometimes we wonder if “change” is a powerful enough word to represent the realities of rising seas and battering rains, coastal erosion and habitat loss, new agricultural stresses and higher food import bills, as well as the loss of human life.

Despite broad consensus, we must be clear that climate change is not the only villain. Regional underdevelopment and global economic polarisation exacerbate the effects of disasters.

The colossal convergence of clouds formed by the churning of warm waters in the Atlantic basin has generated three fully formed hurricanes since tropical storm Harvey passed through the eastern Caribbean in mid-August: hurricanes Irma, Jose and Katia. The Atlantic basin has not seen activity of this nature since 2010 when category three hurricanes Igor and Karl joined category four Julia to bring disastrous impacts to Caribbean islands.

None of these previous hurricanes, however, were nearly as devastating as Irma’s category five assault, which has resulted in 28 confirmed deaths across the Caribbean so far – and thousands will be displaced. Those whose lives have been washed away, leaving them without shelter, include street dwellers, homeless people, squatters and others living precariously in rural, hillside, and coastal areas, which are prone to landslides, collapse and flooding.

Also vulnerable are elderly people, children and people who are mobility-impaired or sick and may more quickly succumb to the health effects of mould, poor nutrition and lack of clean drinking water, exacerbated by constraints in accessing medical help. In addition to flood losses in residential, agricultural, and commercial areas, winds destabilise transport and communication infrastructure, while storm surges dismantle much needed economic, social, and environmental assets on coastlines.

Disasters, as we know them, are a function of magnitude, exposure, and vulnerability. On its own, Irma has characteristics that could make it one of the Caribbean’s most damaging hurricanes on record, due in part to the low levels of economic development that hamper the region’s ability to cope with natural hazards. Irma’s path of destruction has affected more than 10 Caribbean countries, a significantly higher number of islands than those affected by hurricanes Igor, Julia, and Karl combined. While Igor, Julia, and Karl directly affected islands including Bermuda and Cape Verde, Irma made landfall on Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, the US Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, St Kitts, Nevis, and Guadeloupe among others. Bermuda and Cape Verde have substantially higher GDPs and GDP per capita than Barbuda and Anguilla, which strongly correlate to higher resilience and much better coping mechanisms.

For example, in Barbuda Irma destroyed more than 90% of the housing stock and telecommunications infrastructure; large and extended families, including one group of seven, were reliant on rooftop rescues by emergency responders. Similar incidents have been reported from Anguilla and other islands. By comparison, although serious damage was reported in Bermuda and Cape Verde, nothing nearly as devastating as this occurred. These two islands can expect to return to normal life much more quickly than the islands with fewer economic resources. Clearly, the impacts of such storms and the course of the subsequent recovery are determined by a country’s preparedness and capacity to respond. At both the national and community levels, development provides protective armour.

None of these previous hurricanes, however, were nearly as devastating as Irma’s category five assault, which has resulted in 28 confirmed deaths across the Caribbean so far – and thousands will be displaced. Those whose lives have been washed away, leaving them without shelter, include street dwellers, homeless people, squatters and others living precariously in rural, hillside, and coastal areas, which are prone to landslides, collapse and flooding.

Also vulnerable are elderly people, children and people who are mobility-impaired or sick and may more quickly succumb to the health effects of mould, poor nutrition and lack of clean drinking water, exacerbated by constraints in accessing medical help. In addition to flood losses in residential, agricultural, and commercial areas, winds destabilise transport and communication infrastructure, while storm surges dismantle much needed economic, social, and environmental assets on coastlines.

Disasters, as we know them, are a function of magnitude, exposure, and vulnerability. On its own, Irma has characteristics that could make it one of the Caribbean’s most damaging hurricanes on record, due in part to the low levels of economic development that hamper the region’s ability to cope with natural hazards. Irma’s path of destruction has affected more than 10 Caribbean countries, a significantly higher number of islands than those affected by hurricanes Igor, Julia, and Karl combined. While Igor, Julia, and Karl directly affected islands including Bermuda and Cape Verde, Irma made landfall on Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, the US Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, St Kitts, Nevis, and Guadeloupe among others. Bermuda and Cape Verde have substantially higher GDPs and GDP per capita than Barbuda and Anguilla, which strongly correlate to higher resilience and much better coping mechanisms.

For example, in Barbuda Irma destroyed more than 90% of the housing stock and telecommunications infrastructure; large and extended families, including one group of seven, were reliant on rooftop rescues by emergency responders. Similar incidents have been reported from Anguilla and other islands. By comparison, although serious damage was reported in Bermuda and Cape Verde, nothing nearly as devastating as this occurred. These two islands can expect to return to normal life much more quickly than the islands with fewer economic resources. Clearly, the impacts of such storms and the course of the subsequent recovery are determined by a country’s preparedness and capacity to respond. At both the national and community levels, development provides protective armour.

theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/sep/11/escape-hurricane-irma-not-option-caribbean-islands-poverty

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Remembering the Disappeared

By Ariel Dorfman

SEPT. 11, 2017

DURHAM, N.C. — Of the 2,753 victims of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, no physical trace has been found for 1,112 of them. Thus, for 40 percent of those who died that day, no remains have been returned to their families. In the aftermath of the carnage, some people exhibited photos, family snapshots, of those who had vanished and remained unaccounted for, despite the efforts of the authorities.

What could be more natural than to seek information that would, at least, offer clarity and closure, surcease to the mind and heart? As long as there was no body to mourn, there was always a desperate shred of belief that perhaps the loved one might somehow have survived. Any bereavement is hard enough, but when someone has disappeared, seemingly annihilated from the face of the earth, it becomes unbearable.

When I was growing up, I had always heard the Spanish verb “desaparecer” used intransitively: “Se desapareció mi libro,” my book disappeared somewhere, my mother or my father would say, as if it had somehow mislaid itself. Years later, after the Chilean military coup of Sept. 11, 1973, we learned a sinister new usage. Around 1974, like others who had gone into exile to escape the dictatorship, my wife and I began to hear a transitive version of the verb: “lo desaparecieron” or “la desaparecieron,” they disappeared him or her.

“Desaparecer” became a verb that, far from being passive, described a ferocious act of violence and dissimulation. Agents of the state were kidnapping opponents of the regime and then denying their relatives any knowledge of their whereabouts. The verb’s new meaning was a response to a particularly cruel form of terror: Those in power were eliminating anyone they considered a threat while whitewashing their responsibility for the persecutions. The abductors wanted to spread fear — Will I be next? Will my son, my parents, my spouse? — and simultaneously claim there was no human rights abuse.

But this monstrous criminality incited its own form of resistance. The families, primarily the mothers, of the “desaparecidos,” the disappeared, were not going to let their dear ones fade into the darkness. In the years that followed, the world witnessed how those relatives stood up to the authorities, demanding that the detained be returned alive or, if they had been murdered, that their bodies be released for a proper burial and commemoration. Emblematic of this resistance were the photos pinned to the dresses of women or held aloft on placards at rallies or silent marches that were often savagely repressed.

Though such acts of defiance had their start in Chile and Argentina in the mid-1970s, they soon became globalized, as globalized as the terror they were protesting. Over the decades, families in Afghanistan and Myanmar, Ethiopia and Cyprus, to the more recent cases of Syria, Yemen and Mexico, adopted the same tactics, a determined attempt to memorialize the missing.

In time, it was not just the victims of political brutality who were, in some sense, kept fiercely alive in this way. In the 1980s, after our family had moved to the United States, we were surprised to see the images of youngsters on milk cartons, placed at the behest of parents whose children had disappeared. The context was very different — unlike in Chile, in America the police were allies in the search for the missing — but the impulse to call attention to the lost loved one was something we recognized with a shudder. We could identify with the pain felt by those families, the uncertainty and bewilderment corroding their existence.

Despite the disparity in circumstances, the photos staring at consumers from peaceful milk cartons in the United States and the photos paraded by relatives of the desaparecidos who were beaten and jailed and persecuted for demanding justice, shared a very human trait. They wanted to make visible the face and fate of someone who could not speak for himself or herself, and to enlist the wider citizenry in a quest for the truth.

It is that communion across borders, a bond of grief between some of the most and least fortunate people in the world, that makes the idea of bearing witness to the disappeared powerful and universal, and especially relevant right now. At this crossroads in history, the disappearance that was inflicted on a sliver of the earth’s population could now be perpetrated against all humanity, dragging into the void every other species as well. The very extinction of our world, whether by thermonuclear war or from unstoppable man-made climate change, is ominously possible.

The vanishing we face would apply not just to the billions breathing at this moment, but to those we remember and those yet to come. All of them, all of us, “desaparecidos.”

In these circumstances, we should look to the families of the disappeared for guidance and courage. Despite the price they paid for struggling against indifference and fear, they refused to let death have the last word. Perhaps we, too, should pin to our clothes the photos of those most precious to us.

If we do not make visible all who would be perpetually disappeared, if we do not find the means to force the powerful to listen and reverse course, humanity will be engulfed in an apocalypse on an infinitely greater scale than the Sept. 11 attacks. Everything and everyone we love would be reduced to dust in a planet emptied of life and laughter, forever.

But we can still refuse to be disappeared. It starts by depriving disappearance of our complicity or resignation.

Ariel Dorfman, an emeritus professor of literature at Duke University, is the author of the forthcoming book of essays “Homeland Security Ate My Speech” and the novel “Darwin’s Ghosts.”

nytimes.com/2017/09/11/opinion/remembering-the-disappeared.html


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