Books and Documents

World Press (06 Sep 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Take away Aung San Suu Kyi’s Nobel peace prize. She no longer deserves it: New Age Islam's Selection, 06 September 2017

New Age Islam Edit Bureau


6 September 2017


Why didn’t the US shoot down North Korea’s missile? Maybe it couldn’t

By Joshua Pollack

Nobel peace laureate Suu Kyi and ethnic cleansing

By Saudi Gazzette

The reality of confronting Kim Jong-Un

By Abdulrahman al-Rashed

US supports Kuwait emir’s role in mediating Qatar crisis

By Sigurd Neubauer

How Israel’s cynical culture minister plays politics with art

By Yossi Mekelberg

Russia is here to stay and it’s not all bad

By Osama Al-Sharif

Donald Trump's flawed South Asia policy

By Mahmood Hasan

Combating hatred with history

By Guy Verhofstadt

Does the media want to be free or feel secure?

By John Lloyd

Donald Trump needs a united front with China against North Korea – not a petty trade war


Traditional religion may be on the wane, but spirituality remains part of the human condition


Turkey’s half-century EU bid should not be sacrificed to German election

By Serkan Demirtas

Toward a resource efficient and pollution-free Asia-Pacific

By Shamshad Akhtar

Compiled by New Age Islam Edit Bureau

URL: http://newageislam.com/world-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/take-away-aung-san-suu-kyi’s-nobel-peace-prize-she-no-longer-deserves-it--new-age-islam-s-selection,-06-september-2017/d/112442


Take away Aung San Suu Kyi’s Nobel peace prize. She no longer deserves it

By George Monbiot

5 September 2017

Few of us expect much from political leaders: to do otherwise is to invite despair. But to Aung San Suu Kyi we entrusted our hopes. To mention her name was to invoke patience and resilience in the face of suffering, courage and determination in the unyielding struggle for freedom. She was an inspiration to us all.

Friends of mine devoted their working lives to the campaign for her release from the many years of detention imposed by the military dictatorship of Myanmar, and for the restoration of democracy. We celebrated when she was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 1991; when she was finally released from house arrest in 2010; and when she won the general election in 2015.

None of this is forgotten. Nor are the many cruelties she suffered, including isolation, physical attacks and the junta’s curtailment of her family life. But it is hard to think of any recent political leader by whom such high hopes have been so cruelly betrayed.

By any standards, the treatment of the Rohingya people, a Muslim minority in Myanmar, is repugnant. By the standards Aung San Suu Kyi came to symbolise, it is grotesque. They have been described by the UN as “the world’s most persecuted minority”, a status that has not changed since she took office.

The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide describes five acts, any one of which, when “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”, amounts to genocide. With the obvious and often explicit purpose of destroying this group, four of them have been practised more or less continuously by Myanmar’s armed forces since Aung San Suu Kyi became de facto political leader.

I recognise that the armed forces retain great power in Myanmar, and that Aung San Suu Kyi does not exercise effective control over them. I recognise that the scope of her actions is limited. But, as well as a number of practical and legal measures that she could use directly to restrain these atrocities, she possesses one power in abundance: the power to speak out. Rather than deploying it, her response amounts to a mixture of silence, the denial of well-documented evidence, and the obstruction of humanitarian aid.

I doubt she has read the UN human rights report on the treatment of the Rohingyas, released in February. The crimes it revealed were horrific.

It documents the mass rape of women and girls, some of whom died as a result of the sexual injuries they suffered. It shows how children and adults had their throats slit in front of their families.

It reports the summary executions of teachers, elders and community leaders; helicopter gunships randomly spraying villages with gunfire; people shut in their homes and burnt alive; a woman in labour beaten by soldiers, her baby stamped to death as it was born.

It details the deliberate destruction of crops and the burning of villages to drive entire populations out of their homes; people trying to flee gunned down in their boats.

And this is just one report. Amnesty International published a similar dossier last year. There is a mountain of evidence suggesting that these actions are an attempt to eliminate this ethnic group from Myanmar.

Hard as it is to imagine, this campaign of terror has escalated in recent days. Refugees arriving in Bangladesh report widespread massacres. Malnutrition ravages the Rohingya, afflicting 80,000 children.

In response Aung San Suu Kyi has blamed these atrocities, in a chillingly remote interview, on insurgents, and expressed astonishment that anyone would wish to fight the army when the government has done so much for them. Perhaps this astonishment comes easily to someone who has never visited northern Rakhine state, where most of this is happening.

It is true that some Rohingya people have taken up arms, and that the latest massacres were triggered by the killing of 12 members of the security forces last month, attributed to a group that calls itself the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army. But the military response has been to attack entire populations, regardless of any possible involvement in the insurgency, and to spread such terror that 120,000 people have been forced to flee in the past fortnight.

In her Nobel lecture, Aung San Suu Kyi remarked: “Wherever suffering is ignored, there will be the seeds of conflict, for suffering degrades and embitters and enrages.” The rage of those Rohingya people who have taken up arms has been used as an excuse to accelerate an existing programme of ethnic cleansing.

She has not only denied the atrocities, attempting to shield the armed forces from criticism; she has also denied the very identity of the people being attacked, asking the US ambassador not to use the term Rohingya. This is in line with the government’s policy of disavowing their existence as an ethnic group, and classifying them – though they have lived in Myanmar for centuries – as interlopers. She has upheld the 1982 Citizenship Law, which denies these people their rights.

When a Rohingya woman provided detailed allegations about her gang rape and associated injuries by Myanmar soldiers, Aung San Suu Kyi’s office posted a banner on its Facebook page reading “Fake Rape”. Given her reputation for micromanagement, it seems unlikely that such action would have been taken without her approval.

Not only has she snubbed and obstructed UN officials who have sought to investigate the treatment of the Rohingya, but her government has prevented aid agencies from distributing food, water and medicines to people displaced or isolated by the violence. Her office has accused aid workers of helping “terrorists”, putting them at risk of attack, further impeding their attempts to help people who face starvation.

So far Aung San Suu Kyi has been insulated by the apologetics of those who refuse to believe she could so radically abandon the principles to which she once appealed. A list of excuses is proffered: that she didn’t want to jeopardise her prospects of election; that she doesn’t want to offer the armed forces a pretext to tighten their grip on power; that she has to keep China happy.

None of them stand up. As a great democracy campaigner once remarked: “It is not power that corrupts, but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it.” Who was this person? Aung San Suu Kyi. But now, whether out of prejudice or out of fear, she denies to others the freedoms she rightly claimed for herself. Her regime excludes – and in some cases seeks to silence – the very activists who helped to ensure her own rights were recognised.

This week, to my own astonishment, I found myself signing a petition for the revocation of her Nobel peace prize. I believe the Nobel committee should retain responsibility for the prizes it awards, and withdraw them if its laureates later violate the principles for which they were recognised. There are two cases in which this appears to be appropriate. One is Barack Obama, who, bafflingly, was given the prize before he was tested in office. His programme of drone strikes, which slaughtered large numbers of civilians, should disqualify him from this honour. The other is Aung San Suu Kyi.

Please sign this petition. Why? Because we now contemplate an extraordinary situation: a Nobel peace laureate complicit in crimes against humanity.

• George Monbiot is a Guardian columnist



Why didn’t the US shoot down North Korea’s missile? Maybe it couldn’t

By Joshua Pollack

5 September 2017

Perhaps no aspect of national defence is as poorly understood as ballistic missile defence. After North Korea’s shot over Japan last week with an intermediate-range ballistic missile, many people wanted to know why it wasn’t shot down. The answers may be disappointing – but hopefully they will also be enlightening.

Focus on missile defence capabilities will only increase after Pyongyang’s claims on Sunday that it had tested a hydrogen bomb that can be loaded on to an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The first and most fundamental issue to understand is that developing and operating ballistic missile defence, or BMD, is an extremely challenging undertaking. Some are better than others, but the resulting systems are inherently limited in their capabilities and roles.

Perhaps the most attractive sort of defences simply do not exist today, and quite probably never will. So-called boost-phase systems are designed to stop ballistic missiles early in flight, while their engines are still firing and they are ascending into the upper atmosphere and beyond. At times, the US has contemplated a global network of boost-phase interceptors that would whirl around the planet in low-Earth orbit, but the complexity and the economics of the idea are forbidding.

More recently, the US built a prototype “airborne laser” – a massive weapon built into a Boeing 747, designed to burn a hole through an ascending missile, destroying it early in flight. The programme was cancelled on grounds of cost, shortcomings in technology and lack of operational realism: the plane would have to linger dangerously close to enemy territory to have any shot at a missile, making it highly vulnerable to attack just before launch. Opponents could also simply avoid launches from coastal regions.

A panel organised by the National Academy of Sciences has looked at other options, focusing on the mid-course phase, when missiles – or the “re-entry vehicles” that carry warheads in many types of missiles – are passing through space.

The ensuing report was very critical of the existing mid-course system for US homeland defence, known as Ground-based Midcourse Defence, or GMD, which is based primarily in Alaska and is intended to stop attacks on North America and Hawaii from North Korea. The academy panel advocated the gradual replacement of GMD with a substantially new, upgraded system. Instead, Congress has continued to put resources into the incremental improvement of GMD, whose flight-tests cost hundreds of millions of dollars each and have worked only about half the time.

Why is GMD such a basket-case? Partly because of the extraordinary ambition of the concept, and partly because of the hasty nature of development and deployment. In the late 1990s, an expert panel warned of a pattern of deficiencies in American BMD programmes, driven by perceived urgency to achieve “early capability”.

These findings do seem to have influenced a number of American BMD programmes, which have proceeded in a more systematic and satisfactory manner over the intervening two decades. But GMD, the showcase system for US defence, has not.

The Pentagon’s own in-house authority on testing and evaluation has slammed GMD for its unreliability, potential vulnerability to attack or disruption, and an insufficient network of radars. A report issued by the Union of Concerned Scientists last year depicted a programme operating under minimal oversight from Congress, at great expense, and with disappointing results.

Most of the rest of the world’s existing BMD systems belong to a third category: terminal-phase defences. America’s Patriot and Aegis systems and its Russian and Chinese counterparts, as well as Israel’s Arrow system, THAAD, all involve interceptor missiles designed to catch attacking missiles as they descend through the atmosphere toward a target. (THAAD has some ability to intercept above the atmosphere.) The test records of this class of defences have become increasingly impressive.

Patriot, THAAD, and Aegis are precisely the defences that would be employed against North Korean missile attacks in the region. But by virtue of being terminal-phase defences, they protect relatively small areas, close to their own locations. Patriot is often classified as a “point defence”, and used to protect military bases. THAAD is an “area defence” with a longer reach; the US has deployed a THAAD unit to cover its Pacific island of Guam, and another to protect the southern half of South Korea, both of which play host to a number of important American military facilities.

Aegis, which is primarily a sea-based system, differs by virtue of its high degree of mobility. Patriot and THAAD can move by road or by transport aircraft if needed, but Aegis-equipped vessels sail around the region at all times. South Korea’s Aegis boats are equipped with SM-2 terminal-phase interceptors; their Japanese and American equivalents also carry SM-3 mid-course interceptors, enabling a “regional defence”.

So why didn’t an American or Japanese SM-3 take a shot at the North Korean missile that passed over Japan last week? There are two main possibilities. One possibility is that no Aegis vessel was in any position to stop the missile. When it sailed over the island nation, the missile was well into space, about 500km high. The second possibility is that there was simply no reason to make an attempt. By this point, it would have been clear to Japanese and American radar operators that the missile was headed for somewhere in the Pacific, over 1,000km beyond Japan.

In short, it’s not always possible to defend empty reaches of the ocean, and it’s not really desirable to try, either.

Until there is an actual war, of course, we can’t know how effective they would be. BMD is not a panacea. Even the best systems must break at some point, faced with multiple salvos of missiles, attacks on different trajectories, manoeuvring warheads and other advanced technologies, and limited numbers of interceptors. Against an increasingly capable opponent like North Korea, it is possible that defences would only buy some time for the US military and its allies at the start of an immensely destructive war.

• Joshua Pollack is the editor of the Nonproliferation Review and a senior research associate at Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, California



Nobel peace laureate Suu Kyi and ethnic cleansing

Saudi Gazzette

WHEN is the international community going to wake up and smell the coffee? Ethnic cleansing every bit as disgusting as the Serb barbarities in Bosnia is taking place in Myanmar, the country led by the Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. But the world is sitting on its hands and doing precisely nothing.

In the last fortnight more than 123,000 Rohingya refugees have fled across the border into Bangladesh. The tide is growing. In the course of Monday alone, 35,000 more arrived. Where is the international protest? Where are the dire warnings that this crime against humanity cannot be allowed to continue? Where are the sanctions? Where is the threat to intervene and stop this monstrous crime? Where indeed is the Nobel Peace Prize organization and why are they not threatening to strip Aung San Suu Kyi of the honor, which it seemed that she once so richly deserved?

“The Lady” as her supporters call her, used to argue that her government was politically vulnerable. The military junta that she and her party, the National League for Democracy replaced, had kept the defense and interior ministries and given themselves a portion of the seats in the parliament. Her message was that she should proceed with caution. Last year, this still seemed reasonable enough, even though the still-appalling position of her country’s Muslim minorities, particularly the Rohingya, clearly needed addressing. She protested this was on her agenda. It is now clear either that she was lying or the woman regularly compared to South Africa’s Nelson Mandela has lacked the vision and political guts to act in defense of a significant minority of her fellow countrymen. This failure betrays every value of justice and decency, which she once claimed to support.

Had she acted earlier, this disastrous ethnic cleansing might have been avoided. At the very least she could have moved to award full citizenship to the Rohingya who have lived in Myanmar for generations, but since the country gained independence from its British imperial occupiers, always as second class and generally persecuted citizens. She did try to move against the violent Buddhist monk Ashin Wirathu and his bloodthirsty 969 group, also known as the Ma Ba Tha. The movement has been proscribed but has refused to accept its banning and is openly challenging her authority.

Now she is facing the dire consequences of her failures. The security forces have run amok. Reacting to what may or may not have been an attack by Rohingyan militants, the army has begun a wholesale campaign to drive all Rohingyans out of the country.

She may not have the power, let alone the people, to arrest the army commanders responsible for this terrible crime. But she does still have her voice. She is still nominally the ruler of Myanmar. She can declare right now that what is happening to the Rohingya is a crime against her people. She can declare right now that that the Rohingya Muslims are every bit as Burmese as she is. And she can appeal right now for international help to stop this ethnic cleansing and ask the International Criminal Court to open in investigation into the thuggery that is taking place in her country, with a view to prosecuting all those who are guilty, with the full cooperation of her government.



The reality of confronting Kim Jong-Un

By Abdulrahman al-Rashed

No one underestimates what Kim Jong-Un says anymore. Almost everything he threatened of happened. The North Korean regime’s most recent move was the nuclear test which angered the US. A ballistic missile had also frightened Japan after it fell in its waters. North Korea’s young leader Kim Jong-Un can destroy the neighboring city of Seoul in one day or kill a million or more Japanese people or fire a destructive nuclear head on an American base.

The world confronts a real nuclear threat for the first time since the Cold War. American President Donald Trump warned that all options are on the table – which usually signifies threats to resort to military power. However, a war with this mad man will not be a walk in the park. The difference between Kim Jong-Un and other leaders who possess nuclear weapons is that he’s mad enough to commit any crime without blinking. He killed his paternal aunt’s husband then went to eat dinner at her house. He also assassinated the ministers of defense and education.

It’s because of him that Japan decided to end its policy of not attaining offensive weapons – a policy that Japan has adopted since its defeat and surrender in World War II. The Japanese are finally convinced that the world is no longer safe and that they must bear the responsibility of protecting themselves.

The enemy

Washington has viewed North Korea as an enemy that has threatened its allies in that part of the world since the days of Kim II-sung. The US only settled with adopting a blockade policy against it. However, this policy did not prevent Pyongyang from developing its military capabilities which now threaten the US itself as well as the entire international community that is confused about how to confront Kim Jong-Un and whether it should confront him or please him. Submitting to the mad Korean leader’s demands will encourage other mad men across the world to adopt the same approach. For instance, there are similar leaders in Iran. Meanwhile, a military confrontation may cost millions of lives.

The world is thus anticipating developments especially that Washington has excessively made threats and said that it will not allow Pyongyang to possess nuclear weapons. The latter though has carried out six nuclear tests and developed its capabilities to transfer its nuclear weapons. It proved this in the test which flew beyond Japan, and it’s saying it’s about to finish developing a nuclear bomb.

We cannot separate North Korea’s crisis from the problem of dealing with our neighbor Iran which has good relations, including military and nuclear cooperation, with Kim Jong-Un’s regime.

The Iranian command aspires to be in a situation similar to North Korea’s. It aspires to be capable of developing its nuclear offensive capabilities in order to solidify its power inside Iran and subjugate the region. Iran expanded and it cannot continue to do so without a nuclear weapon that strengthens its gains. The verbal confrontation between Trump and Kim Jong-Un without decisively ending the problem may cause a bigger rebellion in which countries like Iran, and that are not possible to deter or besiege, are involved.


Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.



US supports Kuwait emir’s role in mediating Qatar crisis

By Sigurd Neubauer

6 September 2017

The emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, will be the first Gulf state monarch to meet Donald Trump at the White House. Their meeting on Thursday will focus on the US-Kuwait relationship, but also on efforts to resolve the crisis that erupted on June 5 when Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE severed diplomatic relations with Qatar.

The dispute, the most significant of its kind since the establishment of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in 1981, is not only about dueling narratives relating to Qatar’s foreign policy, but also about the role of political Islam and regional rivalry for prestige and influence.

For Saudi Arabia and its partners, the crisis is also about Qatar’s failure to live up to the 2014 Riyadh agreement. This narrative alleges that Doha has through its foreign policy contributed to exacerbating regional instability, especially during the post-Arab Spring environment, by supporting regional Islamist groups.

From a Qatari perspective, the crisis was never about terrorism financing allegations but about its independent foreign policy. Doha also feared that the initial 13 demands presented by the Anti-Terror Quartet were not a negotiation gambit but an imposition meant to curtail its sovereignty. Qatar has maintained that it is open to negotiations but the parties remain deadlocked over how to proceed.

How can these two narratives be reconciled?

Given that the GCC as a bloc is a US strategic partner, Washington has not only sought to support Kuwaiti mediation efforts to help resolve the crisis but also developed its own sets of principles that all parties can agree to. These were presented by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to the disputing parties during his visit to the region in June

They include a roadmap to settle the dispute, with steps each side could take and an “aggressive” time-line. Tillerson also presented a paper on principles that unite the GCC, which include non-interference, protection of sovereignty, and state-funded media not attacking other countries.

Given that the parties to the conflict are key US allies — who each play critical roles in supporting Washington’s regional agenda, which centers on implementing President Trump’s Riyadh address, and in its strategic objective to defeat Daesh and contain Iran — the State Department is tracking unintended consequences and has developed “red lines.” These include assessing whether the GCC crisis is affecting operations by the US-led coalition against Daesh, and assessing impacts on the open and receptive environment in the GCC for US commercial engagement.

From a Kuwaiti perspective, Iran is the only entity to benefit from the GCC crisis; Kuwait also believes that the region cannot afford more instability, which is why its emir is spearheading mediation efforts to resolve the crisis as quickly as possible.

“The emir’s visit is a positive development in order to move forward with solving the GCC crisis, and it also signals continued US support from the highest office for Kuwait’s mediation efforts,” said Hamad Al-Thunayyan, a Kuwaiti national and a graduate student at the University of Maryland. “Kuwait is determined to help resolve the crisis to preserve the GCC structure, which is essential to US regional interests,” he said.

While it is premature to assess whether the emir’s visit to Washington will be a game changer in resolving the crisis, observers in Washington, across the GCC and beyond will inevitably scrutinize a White House statement after the meeting for clues to what the next steps in the diplomatic process will be.

From a US perspective, the GCC is not only a strategic partner, but as a bloc it has significant potential when it comes to strengthening both economic and security cooperation. Together, the six nations can also strengthen counter-terrorism cooperation and help to raise funds for the strategic effort to stabilize Iraq in the post-Daesh environment. This would also be consistent with Saudi Arabia’s landmark decision to improve relations with Iraq and its various Shiite groups, including Moqtada Al-Sadr, who last month made historic visits to Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.

Despite the opportunity for a GCC-reset after Sheikh Sabah’s talks with Trump, it is important to remember that it took nine months to resolve the 2014 GCC crisis, and given the severity of this one — as illustrated by the diplomatic and economic boycott of Qatar — it is unclear if it will be any shorter.

Regardless, Kuwait will have another opportunity to resolve the crisis when it hosts the GCC summit in December. It will also be taking over the GCC Secretariat and will be uniquely positioned to use either of the two mechanisms to solve the crisis, if it has not been resolved before that.

Another variable to help accelerate the reconciliation process could be the UK-GCC summit in Bahrain in November.

Depending on the outcome of the Trump-Sabah meeting, it can be argued that the Kuwaiti emir’s principal contribution so far has been to prevent the crisis from deteriorating. With US support, the emir is well positioned to help devise a strategy in which all parties can agree to move forward with the GCC reconciliation process.

• Sigurd Neubauer is a non-resident fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, where he specializes in US policy on the Arabian peninsula and the Gulf region



How Israel’s cynical culture minister plays politics with art

By Yossi Mekelberg

5 September 2017

Israel’s Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev may not be well known beyond the borders of her own country, but at home she is a constant supplier of headlines, mainly for all the wrong reasons.

She came to international attention at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, walking on the famous red carpet wearing a ghastly dress emblazoned with a panorama of Jerusalem. It was a childish act of defiance against the international community, which regards East Jerusalem as occupied land, and an obvious attempt to pander to her domestic constituency. This typifies her behavior, scoring cheap political points at home regardless of the damage to her country’s interests abroad.

Though she belongs to the far-right wing of the ruling Likud party, Regev increasingly resembles more a political-cultural commissar from the good old Bolshevik Revolution. She tries to mobilize, even coerce, artistic and intellectual activity to the service of the political, economic and social goals of her government.

It would be an exaggeration to suggest that the current approach of utilizing government power in Israel to bend art and culture to the whims of the political system is close to the practices employed during the Soviet Union era. However, the mind-set is not that far adrift. It combines ultra-right ideology, an oversimplified version of Judaism, and sheer political opportunism, all expressed in xenophobic terms, along with hatred of the media and progressive elements in society.

Regev also cynically exploits the painful historical tensions between Sephardi Israeli Jews (those originating from the Middle East) and Ashkenazi Israelis (Jews who originated in Europe). It is something that touches a raw nerve among those who came from Arab countries and who were discriminated against, while their heritage was looked down on by the Jewish European founders of the state of Israel.

To be sure, the world of Israeli art and culture has not always been inclusive and was for many years controlled by the Ashkenazi elites. Nevertheless, that world has been undergoing a radical transformation. Israel today has a very successful art scene, in which fusion music is prospering and a vibrant film industry is enjoying great acclaim at home and abroad. And many of Middle Eastern descent are playing a most significant part in this success.

A quick glance at Regev’s CV provides some insight into her mind-set. She was born to a family that emigrated to Israel from Morocco, grew up in a developing town and served for more than 20 years in the Israeli army. Among her roles in the army she was chief press and media censor, followed by a stint as the army spokesperson. Her years in these sensitive and influential positions gave her an understanding of the power of information and how to manipulate it. It is staggering how she has managed to turn a relatively small and low budget ministry such as Culture and Sport into a source of major controversies, which in return has consolidated and even expanded her political base.

Upon taking office more than two years ago she quickly realized that her ministry’s chief source of power is in financially supporting art and culture projects. By falsely portraying the arts as dominated by the left and Ashkenazi elites, whom she considers unpatriotic, she was able to portray herself as the champion of containing them on behalf of everybody else.

In her audacity Regev ignited controversy when she said this year that her office would not subsidize cultural activities and organizations “harmful to the basic values of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.” Under her watch and with her encouragement her ministry established a funding policy that requires cultural institutions receiving state financial support to declare whether or not they offer performances in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Orchestras, theater groups and dance companies are intimidated and cajoled to perform in the West Bank by receiving a funding bonus for appearing there and, even worse, suffering a 33 percent cut to their funding if they do not. This is a blunt assault on the democratic tenets of the country and the right of artists not to perform in occupied territories.

Her verbal outbursts against Israeli movies that examine with a critical eye the occupation of Palestinian land and the oppression of its people are notorious. The wrath of the minister was directed, for example, at a documentary titled Megiddo, which tells the story of militant Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons. On another occasion Regev lambasted the public funding of the movie Foxtrot, which was selected for both the Venice and Toronto film festivals, for portraying Israeli soldiers in a bad light.

Regev is assaulting the very foundation of a free society in which artistic freedom is sacrosanct. Art should not be beyond criticism, but at the same time must be protected against incitement and arbitrary funding cuts. Unfortunately, she belongs to those who cannot differentiate between light entertainment, as important as it is, and art, which at its best is bound to be reflective and critical. A healthy democratic and pluralist society should cherish a successful art scene that is not afraid to address the less pleasant aspects of human and social existence. Not a notion, I am afraid, that would resonate with Miri Regev and her supporters.

• Yossi Mekelberg is professor of international relations at Regent’s University London, where he is head of the International Relations and Social Sciences Program. He is also an associate fellow of the MENA Program at Chatham House. He is a regular contributor to the international written and electronic media.



Russia is here to stay and it’s not all bad

By Osama Al-Sharif

5 September 2017

In the past two years, Russia has become a key player in Middle East affairs. Syria has given it that opportunity at a time when the US is in the mid of a visible and deliberate recoil from a region that was historically a main stage of its foreign policy.

The US retreat began with Barack Obama’s “pivot to Asia,” a policy that restructured US strategic interests in a changing world. But Obama’s reaction to the popular uprisings that gripped Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Syria lacked a clear and sustainable vision, shaking trust in his country’s commitment and support of its traditional allies.

The Libya debacle in 2011 provided the first indicator of Moscow’s readiness to get directly involved in the region. Russia was the primary critic of Western military intervention there, which led to the toppling of Moscow ally Muammar Qaddafi, and eventual anarchy. But it was the Syrian crisis, and the regional polarization that ensued, that prompted Russian President Vladimir Putin to step in. Russia’s military intervention in September 2015 in support of Bashar Assad was a calculated gamble that appears to have worked.

Russia is no stranger to the Middle East. At the height of the Cold War, the former Soviet Union sought to solidify alliances with Arab countries that had a shared platform: all were left leaning socialist republics engaged in a bitter struggle against Israel. The 1973 Arab-Israeli war was seen as a proxy battle between Washington’s ally and Moscow’s Arab partners Egypt, Syria and, to some extent, Iraq.

As America’s regional influence expanded, especially after the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, Moscow’s receded. It continued to maintain alliances with rivals Damascus and Baghdad and had a special relationship with Algeria, South Yemen and the Palestine Liberation Organization. But as Moscow became bogged down in a costly war in Afghanistan, the former Soviet Union began to show signs of unraveling. It finally did in December 1991 and a new world order, a unipolar one, was born.

The new Russian federation was in disarray for most of the 1990s, while the Middle East was embroiled in a devastating regional war and a complex peace process between Israel and the Palestinians under US auspices. America had become the region’s unchallenged curator and its objectives had changed very little: Supporting Israel while managing the Arab-Israeli conflict, securing the stability of oil from Gulf states and containing revolutionary Iran. Moscow’s usual regional partners on the other hand found that a weak Russia was no longer a reliable ally. But 9/11 upset the world’s geopolitical dynamics and America’s priorities in the region.

During the first decade of this millennium the US found itself entangled in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Both proved to be costly and unmanageable. As US troops descended into the quicksands of two perilous quagmires, Russia’s new strongman, Putin, was putting his house in order. He had crushed the rebellion in Chechnya and rebuilt the country’s military. Benefiting from a historic surge in oil and gas prices, Putin was reasserting Russia’s role on the world stage as a power to be reckoned with.

The Middle East has always been viewed by Russian rulers as a geopolitical prize due to its proximity to the Caucasus and Central Asia, and because of shared cultural and religious heritage. But never in the past 60 years has Moscow been more entrenched in the region as it is today.

The Syrian crisis has allowed Russia to build tricky alliances with Turkey and Iran. Its relations with Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia, have never been closer. Its role in finding an end to the Syrian conflict is now central and unshakeable. In other words, Russia will be in Syria for years to come.

Moscow is also getting involved in other regional conflicts where the West has come up short, including Libya, Palestine/Israel and even the dispute between Qatar and other Gulf states. At a time when Washington’s regional agenda seems confused and inconclusive, Moscow is adopting a more sober and pragmatic approach and filling a strategic vacuum. Its openness to all parties should allow it to have sway over a number of regional players, including Iran which is meddling in its neighbors’ affairs. Russia can also counterbalance the US’ favorable stance toward Israel and push for an equitable settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict according to international laws and UN resolutions.

But the biggest test yet for Putin will be the resolution of the Syrian crisis in a way that provides an acceptable political settlement that takes into consideration the aspirations of the Syrian people and anxieties of regional players. By stepping into this region, Moscow is taking on huge political and moral responsibilities.

• Osama Al Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman.



Donald Trump's flawed South Asia policy

By Mahmood Hasan

September 06, 2017

Donald Trump on August 21, 2017, by laying out America's path forward for Afghanistan and South Asia, has re-entered the new Great Game—reminiscent of the 19th century rivalry between Britain and Russia.

Commander-in-Chief Trump arrived at three fundamental conclusions about America's core interests in Afghanistan. First, he wants to have an honourable and enduring outcome—i.e. win the war. Second, he reversed his earlier position to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. US troops will remain based on conditions on the ground and as long as necessary. Third, Trump accused Pakistan of giving safe haven to terrorists. He warned Pakistan that its partnership with the US cannot survive if Pakistan continues to harbour terrorists. He declared America was developing its strategic partnership further with India and wants Delhi to be more forthcoming in Afghan affairs. What was most outrageous was when Trump said, “We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists”.

Afghanistan is known as the “Graveyard of Empires”. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said, “If America doesn't withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, soon Afghanistan will become another graveyard for this superpower”, indicating a surge in attacks. Taliban, fattened by money from smuggling opium is well-armed and better organised. It is less corrupt and enjoys loyalty in the countryside, controlling over 40 percent of the territory.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is pleased at Trump's strategy and happy that fresh American troops were coming again. But Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah, elected through a fraudulent election, runs a kleptocracy unable to give moral leadership to the 190,000 demoralised individuals of the Afghan National Security Force. Afghanistan is not a democracy by any definition—it is a tribal society with allegiance to the tribal chiefs—not to Ashraf Ghani in Kabul.

US has always toyed with the idea of resolving Afghan crisis without Pakistan. To put pressure on Islamabad, which is a non-Nato US ally, Defence Secretary Mattis cancelled USD 350 million of USD 900 million military aid to Pakistan in 2017. Pakistan does not seem worried as its relationship with China is now worth USD 110 billion—with the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) bringing in USD 4 billion in 2017.

The Pakistani government, politicians and media reacted strongly to Trump's plan. Pakistan Foreign Ministry described Trump's allegation as “a false narrative”. It said a military solution is not possible and only an Afghan-owned politically negotiated solution can lead to peace in Afghanistan. Pakistan Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif briefed the Senate on August 24 that the high-level meeting attended by PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and all the service chiefs strongly rejected Trump's accusations. Islamabad is peeved that US wants to develop a partnership with arch-rival India.

Pakistan is no doubt guilty for raising the Taliban and other outfits that have spread terror both in Afghanistan and India. The Taliban has kept Pakistan's rival India at bay in Afghanistan. Pakistan will no doubt continue to support the Taliban until it gets a compliant government in Kabul. With the current face-off with India over Kashmir, Islamabad feels deeply insecure and sees Afghanistan as its strategic depth. Pakistan's security concerns are linked with Afghanistan.

To Delhi, which always accuses Pakistan of providing safe havens to militants, Trump lambasting Pakistan sounded sweet. Indian MEA statement welcomed Trump's Afghan plan. Trump said that India was a “critical part of the South Asia strategy”. This partnership is the outcome of Narendra Modi's visit to Washington in June 2017. Did Trump's overtures to India strengthen Delhi's position to end the Doklam stand-off with China?

The triangular narrative of relations among Pakistan, Afghanistan and India is extremely complex. Trump cannot resolve the Afghan crisis with Indian assistance alone, excluding Pakistan. On the contrary, it will raise tension in the subcontinent. However, India should not be overtly happy that Trump has castigated Pakistan. Surely, Delhi will not relish Afghanistan having a common border with India and Taliban knocking at India's gate. For Delhi, fighting militants in Kashmir, Pakistan is a buffer between India and terrorist-infested Afghanistan. But India has given in to the old adage—my enemy's (Pakistan) enemy (Afghanistan) is my friend.

Fighting over 16 years, spending over USD 1 trillion and even after losing 2,400 troops there is no sight of victory for America in Afghanistan. Trump's 4,000 additional troops, in addition to the 8,500 already there, will hardly change the military balance in Afghanistan. In 2010 Nato-led troops numbered 140,000 but could not secure the country from the Taliban.

US pressures on Pakistan will undoubtedly push Pakistan closer to China, Russia and Iran—regional players in the new Great Game. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on August 22 reaffirmed China's support to Pakistan asserting that Pakistan was on the front line in the struggle against terrorism and had made “great sacrifices” and “important contributions” in the fight.

Russia lately has been normalising relations with Pakistan, and according to some unconfirmed reports, is in communication with Taliban, supplying arms. A reversal of the Afghan war-game is not unlikely—Russia fuelling Taliban to ensure an Americans defeat in Afghanistan, as America did with the Mujahedeen to oust Russia in the 1980s. Shiite Iran, under pressure from America over its nuclear deal, has maintained communication links with Sunni Taliban. Tehran may assist the Taliban to get rid of the common enemy America from its backyard. On the other side of the Game— it will be US and India with probably token representation from some US allies.

Donald Trump said he studied Afghanistan in great detail. But Pakistan Tehreeq-e-Insaf (PTI) Chief Imran Khan commented that Trump had no understanding of South Asia. Trump blames Pakistan for America's deeply flawed and failed Afghan policy.

Trump's plan is flawed with no clear objective. He mentioned a political settlement with the Taliban—he should embark upon this path and try to find a negotiated settlement for Afghanistan rather than counting body-bags. America should also make sure that tensions between Pakistan and India do not spiral into a catastrophic nuclear conflict.

Mahmood Hasan is former Ambassador and Secretary.



Combating hatred with history

By Guy Verhofstadt

September 06, 2017

After a white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in which anti-fascist campaigner Heather Heyer was killed, and many others injured, US President Donald Trump notoriously blamed “both sides” for the violence. By equating neo-Nazis with those who stood against them, Trump (further) sullied his presidency. And by describing some of the participants in the Charlottesville rally as “very fine people,” he gave a nod to far-right bigots worldwide.

A few weeks thereafter, just as Hurricane Harvey was bearing down on Texas, Trump pardoned Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County in Arizona. Arpaio had been convicted of contempt of court in July for defying a federal judge's order to stop racially profiling Latinos. But the way Trump sees it, Arpaio was “convicted for doing his job.”

Arpaio once boasted that the outdoor jail where he held undocumented immigrants was akin to a concentration camp. And he is now a leading exponent of the Tea Party and other xenophobic right-wing movements that rallied behind Trump in last year's election. By pardoning Arpaio, Trump was, once again, implicitly embracing white supremacists and nativists worldwide.

Sadly, many of Trump's allies in the Republican Party have barely raised an eyebrow in response to his latest words and actions. And according to a recent ABC News-Washington Post poll, 9 percent of respondents—“equivalent to about 22 million Americans”—find it “acceptable to hold neo-Nazi or white supremacist views.”

This is a shocking finding. But it is not limited to the United States. Europe, too, is witnessing a worrying surge of racism, nationalism, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia. In a recent poll conducted for Chatham House, 55 perceny of European respondents agreed that “all further migration from mainly Muslim countries” should be stopped. That is higher than the 48 percent of Americans who, in February, supported Trump's executive order barring travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

It is time for Europeans who would prefer to dismiss white supremacy as an American phenomenon to mind their own backyards. Since Trump's election in the US and the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom, hate speech and crimes against ethnic minorities and foreign nationals have started to become normalised in many Western countries.

Most worryingly, intolerance may be on the rise among young people. The British magazine TES reports that “hate crimes and hate incidents in British schools” increased by 48 percent in the summer and fall terms of 2016, compared to the same period of the previous year. As the report notes, this coincides precisely with the Brexit referendum and Trump's election.

In today's information landscape, social media have become the primary means for spreading hatred. The largest social-media platforms are now host to countless fake and anonymous accounts that spew xenophobic, nationalistic, and racist messages. These accounts are polluting a medium that many young people enjoy, and exposing impressionable minds to dangerous falsehoods and conspiracy theories. And more often than not, they are being operated with impunity by Russian-sponsored trolls in Macedonia or elsewhere in Eastern Europe.

But it is not just online trolls who are empowering people to be racist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic. Many world leaders and prominent opinion makers are doing it, too. Although mainstream European leaders offered a clear rebuke to the Charlottesville violence and Trump's reaction to it, they need to go further. Now more than ever, the European Union must demonstrate its commitment to upholding core values of equality and tolerance.

The fact that the current Hungarian and Polish governments are intentionally undermining democratic institutions in those countries should be evidence enough that we cannot take freedom, liberty, and the rule of law for granted. It took many years to build democratic institutions in Central and Eastern Europe, but it has taken just a few parliamentary elections to reverse that progress. For the sake of European democracy, the other members of the EU must take collective action now to sanction these increasingly authoritarian governments for their transgressions.

After an increase in anti-Semitic incidents in 2004, when I was the prime minister of Belgium, I launched an initiative to remind young people of the costs of World War II. During their history lessons, Belgian students would learn about the implications and negative consequences of certain ideologies.

With hatred on the march again today, we must remember that education is crucial in the fight against authoritarianism, which can thrive on generational complacency. To ensure that democratic values prevail, we must encourage all people to reflect on the lessons of the past, when grotesque abuses were perpetrated against millions.

We owe it to all of those who suffered under past authoritarian regimes to stand up now for democratic values. We can start by pushing back, as Heather Heyer did, against the right-wing populists who are openly fomenting hatred across the West.

Guy Verhofstadt, a former Belgian prime minister, is President of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group (ALDE) in the European Parliament.



Why the regime in Iran cannot be trusted

By Mohammed Nuruzzaman

September 5, 2017

Iran wants the US to at least curtail its presence in the Middle East, if not to totally pack up and leave the region

Iran and the US are once again on a dangerous collision course. The US, in a bid to keep the Iranians in check and maintain its interests in the Middle East, has threatened or used a host of options, including possible military attacks, diplomatic isolation and economic sanctions.

Despite all this, Iran seems to have emerged more powerful in recent years and has now expanded its sphere of influence in the Gulf region and in the Levant. One of Iran's assets has been its military development over the past decade.

President Hassan Rouhani has, according to a 2015 British report, given the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) an annual cybersecurity budget of around $19.8 million. Iranian military equipment is now a growing factor on the regional arms markets in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, as Iran trades with governments and militia groups.

The IRGC forces are also now capable of projecting power across the Middle East, sending military advisers, volunteers and training professionals to Iraqi and Syrian governments and different militia groups.

In June this year, Tehran for the first time fired medium-range missiles on Daesh targets in Syria. It has also successfully produced and tested long-range ballistic missiles, main battle tanks, and unmanned aerial vehicles, in addition to domestically built submarines and attack boats. According to the Israeli prime minister, Iran is also building missile factories and sites in Syria and Lebanon.

How has Iran managed to extend its influence in this way?

The 2003 US invasion of Iraq was a turning point for Iran. Indeed, President George W. Bush's "war on terror" was unintentionally of great benefit to Iran.

Shia-majority Iran's two bitter enemies - the government in Afghanistan and the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq were under fire from the US. The risks of attacks on Iran from the eastern and western borders were lessened - this despite the Bush administration's relentless threats of regime change. The occupation of Iraq also encouraged the Iranian government's nuclear programme.

Iran's strategy of increasing its power has centred on the promotion of cross-border Shia solidarity, and the development of what the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has called "resistance economy".

Since the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), Iranians have cultivated strong political, economic and sectarian ties with Iraqi Shias hoping to eliminate future Iraqi threats to Iranian security. This strategy has paid off. In 2010 elections, Iran-supported Shia political parties and groups emerged victorious in Iraq, and they are now controlling political power in Baghdad. The following year, the Arab spring and Syrian war brought an unexpected opportunity. Tehran sided with its only Arab strategic partner - the government of President Bashar Al Assad, an Alawite Shia, and backed the growth of its traditional Lebanese ally Hezbollah, a Shia organisation which was also fighting in Syria.

Resistance economy is Iran's deft strategy to survive in a hostile global economic environment. Designed to counter the corrosive effects of US and EU sanctions, it seeks to reduce Iran's vulnerabilities to global and regional economic shocks through domestic capacity building, develop a knowledge-based economy and improve industrial production and technological competitiveness. Another big objective is to decrease dependence on oil and gas - Iran's principal source of revenues until now.

Iran wants the US to at least curtail its presence in the Middle East, if not to totally pack up and leave the region. It sees US military and naval presence in the Arabian Gulf as completely unacceptable. This is a major cause of concern for America's Gulf allies who heavily depend on US military supplies and cooperation for their security.

The Hezbollah connection has already prompted Israel and the US to support anti-Assad rebels. Iran, in a sign of defiance of US sanctions, could today be more determined to complete its ballistic missile programme. As tensions ratchet up between Washington and Tehran, worst-case scenarios such as armed confrontations are growing. Whatever follows, it is clear the events of recent years have resulted in Iran becoming a pivotal player in the Middle East region. -The Conversation

Mohammed Nuruzzaman is Associate Prof of Intl Relations, Gulf University for Science and Tech



Does the media want to be free or feel secure?

By John Lloyd

September 5, 2017

The press can claim autonomy and rights only if it is independent from states and governments

Journalism is in a delicate state in the world. The day when it seemed secure in its own freedom is gone. As June Jodie Ginsberg, the CEO of Index on Censorship, has observed: "It does seem as if the world is more authoritarian now."

Authoritarian leaders are increasingly confident in their rule, and the subordinate role of the news media. As democratic states in Europe and the Americas weaken, they assert more firmly that journalism is too important to be left to journalists, since politicians can better judge what information and opinions will secure good government.

It is the autocratic leader, largely in command of what can and cannot be said and shown (while providing the most engrossing, patriotic and popular entertainments) who now provides a template for despots and semidemocrats. It's a style honed in Russia and China, applied in Turkey, Egypt and Ethiopia, and elements of which are adopted in Poland, Hungary and Slovakia. Among democratic states, a weak but electorally-effective form was pioneered under Silvio Berlusconi's Italian premierships in the 1990s and 2000s.

In August 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping told the National Propaganda and Ideology Work Conference that workers in propaganda and ideology - that is, the media - had become lax: "they speak without restraint ... cheered on by hostile forces."

Western countries, he said, "flaunt 'press freedom,' but in fact, they also have ideological baselines ... there are no completely independent media." This is a correct observation, but one that neglects the fact that independence from states and governments is the indispensable baseline for a journalism that can claim autonomy and rights.

After his speech, Chinese journalism, which in the early 2000s had developed a means of gently critical editorialising and had done several important investigations, was buttoned up. Journalism in other autocratic states was too, in different ways. Russian President Vladimir Putin gradually took over the oligarchic broadcast channels and brought the main newspapers and magazines into line.

In Turkey, news media largely controlled by different industrial groups - some allied to the exiled imam Muhammed Fethullah Gulen, who is the alleged inspiration for last year's coup - have been either closed or disciplined into obedience. In Egypt, after the assumption of power by Field Marshal Abdel Fattah El Sisi by acclamation in 2014, and in the wake of a terrorist attack killing around 30 in the Egyptian military, a group of editors and television presenters gathered to agree that their resources become "tools of the state" against terrorism.

Many Middle Eastern journalists, especially in Turkey, hate this. But not all yearn to breathe free. Journalists in authoritarian societies often yearn to be secure, and are conscious that their audiences often prefer state-sanctioned media, with upbeat, patriotic messages, to more discomfiting, and at times hypercritical, broadcasts and publications. This isn't the case in India, the world's largest democracy: The television news is famously raucous and aggressive, and the newspapers are diverse in their views. The media are relatively independent, but do far too little reporting on the vast poverty and discrimination that blights hundreds of millions of lives. Prime Minister Narendra Modi comes from a lower-caste family, but he appears less concerned by the lack of coverage of social misery than he does about an independent media.

In early June, Central Bureau of Investigation officers raided the home and offices of Prannoy and Radika Roy, founders of the first independent Indian news station and frequent critics of Modi, alleging loan defaults. The channel had aired a documentary in Hindi a few days earlier, claiming that Delhi's news media now worked in an "atmosphere of fear" because of government pressure.

In the West, national institutions like the UK's The Guardian, France's Le Monde and The US's The Boston Globe - all historically loaded with honours - struggle under large losses. Some find billionaires willing to support them, like the Washington Post did with Jeff Bezos of Amazon. The public appetite for informed news and comment on Donald J. Trump's presidency has buoyed the circulations of The Post and The New York Times. But the longer-term trends of falling print advertising, along with digital advertising that increasingly goes to Google and Facebook, remain.

And now, there is a new, dangerous enemy of press freedom. The United States has always been an inspiration to those that wish for and try to practice independent, inquiring journalism. While living in Russia as the Soviet Union came to an end and in the first years of the post-Soviet states, I was struck by how often journalists there turned to the US example to orient themselves, as they have in China, the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere.

Today, Trump's uniquely unwavering focus has been on destroying trust in the US news media. He is deliberately tearing at one of the greatest institutions of US "soft power." This, like all of his moves, is designed to bolster his own position, but it attacks a journalistic culture that has been, at its frequent best, the most prominent example in the world of freedom combined with civic responsibility. The greatest institutions of US journalism are rising to the challenge. So should we all.

John Lloyd is a contributing editor to the Financial Times



Donald Trump needs a united front with China against North Korea – not a petty trade war



If Donald Trump is genuinely interested in solving the North Korean crisis, then needlessly antagonising the countries that are best placed to help alleviate tensions with Pyongyang is hardly the best way to proceed.

Of all the countries that have a vested interest in achieving a peaceful resolution of the stand-off, China is the most pivotal. Apart from being North Korea’s main trading partner – it accounts for about 85 per cent of all trade with Pyongyang – China is the only nation that has anything approaching a diplomatic relationship with dictator Kim Jong-un.

Beijing’s interest, moreover, in defusing the stand-off with the North Korean regime over its insistence on conducting bellicose missile tests has risen dramatically in the wake of last weekend’s detonation of a nuclear device that was reported to have caused minor tremors on the Chinese border.



Traditional religion may be on the wane, but spirituality remains part of the human condition



At first sight the figures look bad for religion. In a survey published yesterday by British Social Attitudes, 53 per cent of people asked said they had no religion, compared to 47 per cent who said they had. Among the 18-24-year-olds the gap was even more pronounced, with 72 per cent declaring themselves non-religious.

All of this suggests that religious faith is falling fast. But this is the wrong conclusion to draw. There is a difference between faith and religious affiliation, just as there is between spirituality and attendance at a formal act of religious worship. Traditional services may lack the pace and pulse of the new social media.

You can’t cram a religious ritual into the 3-4 minutes of an internet video, or a Bible reading into a smartphone text. But that does not mean that they have nothing to offer. To the contrary, we are finding more young people coming to synagogue to find...



Turkey’s half-century EU bid should not be sacrificed to German election

By Serkan Demirtas


Signs of a substantial change in Germany’s policies toward Turkey have taken more concrete form over the course of the summer, after the Bundestag voted in June to move German troops and aircrafts from the Incirlik base to Jordan over Ankara’s refusal to allow German lawmakers to visit the base.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s latest statements indicate what this change will look like and on what grounds it will be based.

Speaking at the German Parliament on Sept. 5, Merkel said she would bring the issue of Turkey’s accession negotiations to the European Council in October, with a demand to either suspend or end them. In a recent televised debate with her political rival Martin Schulz - who also says EU accession talks with Turkey should be ended - Merkel strongly signaled that this was not merely a pre-election promise made to her electorate, but a policy that would be implemented in her fourth term as prime minister.

Her messages also include Ankara and Brussels’ plans to upgrade the Customs Union, after last week she conveyed to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker Germany’s opposition to discussing an upgrade of the Customs Union under current conditions.

It should be noted that these messages come after Merkel held a mini-summit with the leaders of France, Spain and Italy 10 days ago. Although the summit was about stemming the flow of African refugees into Europe, it’s almost certain that the troubled state of ties with Turkey was also addressed by these four leaders.

Cutting pre-accession financial aid from Brussels to Turkey is among the possible sanctions that Merkel has voiced in recent days. On the bilateral level, Merkel has also threatened to issue a stronger travel warning to German citizens, as she accused Turkey of holding 12 German nationals as “political prisoners.” Although she was careful not to mention the massive bilateral economic relations, there are concerns that a further rupture in ties would have negative consequences on economy and trade between the two countries.      

As can be seen, Merkel has been working to carry German-Turkish tension to the EU sphere, conveying the message that she could prompt a collapse of Ankara’s long-standing efforts to join the EU.

At this point, the EU and responsible EU countries should be brave enough to challenge Germany’s attempts to use Turkey’s accession process as a stick in its bilateral disagreements with the Turkish government. Friends of Turkey in the European Parliament, countries traditionally supportive of Turkey’s accession to the EU, and independent politicians who are able to see the future challenges that will emerge from pushing Turkey out of Europe and into unchartered waters, should be much more vocal against German leadership. Turkey’s half-century-long engagement with the EU should not be sacrificed because of such a bilateral dispute.

In this context, the immediate reactions to Merkel’s statements from EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and European Parliament rapporteur Kati Piri have been positive. As Mogherini stressed, there are scores of issues that Ankara and Brussels will have to continue to work together on as partners.

Of course, on the other side of the coin is Turkey’s growing failure in terms of universal democratic norms and human rights standards, particularly acute since last year’s failed coup attempt. The Turkish leadership must examine through an objective lens the reasons behind their current standoff with a number of EU countries, which have resulted in a de facto suspension of its accession process.

It is becoming clear that continued violations of human rights, deterioration of democratic norms, and restrictions of fundamental freedoms will carry a heavy cost for Turkey.



Toward a resource efficient and pollution-free Asia-Pacific

By Shamshad Akhtar


Senior government officials from across Asia and the Pacific will be meeting in Bangkok this week for the first-ever Asia-Pacific Ministerial Summit on the Environment. The high-level meeting is co-convened by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) and U.N. Environment and is a unique opportunity for the region’s environment leaders to discuss how they can work together toward a resource efficient and pollution-free Asia-Pacific.

At the core of the meeting is the question: How can we use our resources more efficiently to continue to grow our economies in a manner that does not tax our natural environment or generate pollution affecting public health and ecosystem health. There is certainly much room for improvement to make in this area.

Resources such as fossil fuels, biomass, metals and minerals are essential to build economies. However, the region’s resource efficiency has regressed in recent years. Asia is unfortunately the least resource efficient region in the world. In 2015, we used one third more materials to produce each unit of GDP than in 1990. Developing countries use five times as many resources per dollar of GDP in comparison to the rest of the world and 10 times more than industrialized countries in the region. This inefficiency of resource use results in wastage and pollution, further affecting natural resources and public health, which are the basic elements for ensuring sustainable economic growth.

As the speed and scale of economic growth continues to accelerate across the region, pollution has become a critical area for action. While the challenge of pollution is a global one, the impacts are overwhelmingly felt in developing countries. About 95 percent of adults and children who are impacted by pollution-related illnesses live in low and middle-income countries. Asia and the Pacific produce more chemicals and waste than any other region in the world and accounts for the bulk – 25 out of 30 – of cities with highest levels of PM 2.5, the tiny atmospheric particulate matter that can cause respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and cancer. More than 80 percent of our rivers are heavily polluted, while five of the top land-based ocean plastic sources are from countries in our region. Estimates put the cost of marine pollution to regional economies at a staggering $1.3 billion.

If left unattended, these trends threaten to upend hard-won economic gains and hamper human development.  But while these challenges appear intractable, the region has tremendous strengths and opportunities to draw from. Many countries hold solid track records of successful economic transformation.

There are some profound changes underway in Asia and the Pacific. The region is experiencing the largest rural to urban migration in history. Developing these new urban areas with resource-efficient buildings, wastewater and solid waste management systems can do much to advance this agenda. Advancing the “sharing economy” might mean we have better utilization of assets such as vehicles, houses or other assets, greatly reducing material inputs and pollution. The widespread move to renewable energy should rein in fossil fuel use. And advances in recycling, materials technology, 3D printing and manufacturing could also support greater resource circularity. 

Moving to green technologies and eco innovation offers economic and employment opportunities.

Renewable energy provided jobs for 9.8 million people worldwide in 2016. Waste can be converted into economic opportunities, including jobs. In Cebu City - the second-largest city in the Philippines concerted Solid Waste Management has borne fruit: Waste has been reduced by 30 per cent in 2012; treatment of organic waste in neighborhoods has led to lower transportation costs and longer use period in landfills. The poor have largely benefited from hundreds of jobs that have been created.

At the policy level, it is vital that resource efficiency and pollution prevention targets are integrated into national development agendas, and targeted legal and regulatory measures to enforce resource efficiency standards should be established. For example, the government of China has instituted a national system of legislation, rules and regulations that led to the adoption of a compulsory national cleaner production audit system that has been in place for more than 10 years. The direct economic benefits from this system are estimated to be more than $3 billion annually.

We need to move to a more resource efficient and pollution free growth path that supports and promotes healthy environments. The cost of inaction for managing resources efficiently and preventing pollution is too high and a threat to economies, livelihoods and health across the region.

Shamshad Akhtar is the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Erik Solheim is the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment


URL: http://newageislam.com/world-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/take-away-aung-san-suu-kyi’s-nobel-peace-prize-she-no-longer-deserves-it--new-age-islam-s-selection,-06-september-2017/d/112442


Compose Your Comments here:
Email (Not to be published)
Fill the text
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the articles and comments are the opinions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect that of NewAgeIslam.com.