June 27, 2017

TURMOIL IN THE GULF AND THE PERSIAN INTEREST

http://www.dailypioneer.com/columnists/edit/turmoil-in-the-gulf-and-the-persian-interest.html

COLUMNISTS

Tuesday, 27 June 2017 | Sandhya Jain | in Edit

A resolution to the crisis is still possible as Riyadh and Doha have previously settled disputes through dialogue. Tehran hopes the rift will weaken the GCC and the US-Arab alliance

With a sovereign wealth fund of $335 billion and a miniscule citizenry (12 per cent of 2.5 million residents), Qatar has long enjoyed the luxury of engaging in regional politics without fear of domestic unrest, unlike its neighbours. But on June 5, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain injected high voltage instability in the region by severing ties with Doha over its allegedly “hostile and divisive foreign policy”.

Riyadh, which led the crackdown, demanded that Qatar give up its regional adventurism (read independence) and align its policy with that of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The Saudi boycott was quickly followed by Yemen, the Maldives, Mauritius, Mauritania, and Haftar-controlled eastern Libya. Like Qatar, Jordan also has strong ties with Israel; it quietly lowered diplomatic representation in Doha. Without a rapid de-escalation of the crisis, Qatar could leave the GCC.

Widely seen as a nudge to Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani to step down, the Saudi action has been closely followed by King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s abrupt decision to end the House of Saud’s system of rotating kingship within the clan and establish his own dynasty by appointing his son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 31, as crown prince (June 21).

The downsizing of Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who had excellent ties with Qatar and had successfully dismantled the Al Qaeda’s network in Saudi Arabia, has been accompanied by whispers of Salman abdicating in favour of his son. With many royal family stalwarts sure to be unhappy at the sudden developments in Riyadh, the desert kingdom could itself face more instability than bargained for. In April 2015, Salman had deposed his half-brother, Prince Muqrin, in favour of the now axed Prince Mohammed bin Nayef.

The genesis of the conflict goes back to the late 1990s and early 2000s, when Qatar engaged with Israel, Hezbollah, and Iran, and established itself as a link between international powers and pariah groups. During the US invasion of Afghanistan, Washington reputedly urged Qatar to liaise with the Taliban. After the Arab Spring, Qatar enhanced support to the Muslim Brotherhood, expecting it to emerge victorious (it ruled Egypt for a year till the Army takeover in 2013), which agitated Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which saw the Muslim Brotherhood as a threat to their rule.

Qatar is also accused of ties with Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. Its Gulf neighbours insist that Doha expel all Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood members from its soil, freeze the bank accounts of Hamas members, stop supporting “terrorist organisations”, and stop giving Qatari nationality to citizens of the four countries.

Shiite-majority Bahrain, ruled by a Sunni minority, blames Iran for the 2011 uprising that Saudi troops helped to quell. The angry Arab states demand that Qatar degrade diplomatic and economic ties with Iran and expel members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards from its territory. Doha denies they are even present on its soil; most international observers agree. More pertinently, Qatar and Iran share South Pars, the world’s largest gas field, in the Persian Gulf, so ruining relations is not an option. In fact, Qatar congratulated Hassan Rouhani on his re-election as President of Iran. But Riyadh and Tehran back opposing sides in Bahrain, Syria and Yemen, and seek to curtail each other’s influence in Africa, Asia and the Middle East in general. Doha is caught in the middle.

The current crisis was allegedly triggered by Qatar’s move to quietly pay a ransom of around one billion dollars to the Al-Qaeda and Iran-backed militias in Syria to release Qatari hostages. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi claims his Government has custody of the money (around $500 million). But Riyadh feels a covert deal undermines its counter-terrorism efforts and encourages militias to take hostages for ransom and political leverage. Yet Qatar helped release US Army Sgt Bowe Bergdahl from the Taliban (May 2014) and US journalist Peter Theo Curtis from Jabhat al-Nusra, then Al-Qaeda’s Syria affiliate (August 2014).

As of now, American policy seems confused. President Donald Trump initially expressed support for Riyadh, where he recently made a whopping $110 billion sale of arms, but was soon informed that the US Central Command’s largest overseas base, which manages all military operations in Afghanistan and the Middle East, and the air war against the Islamic State, is at Al Udeid, in Qatar. He later sold Qatar warplanes worth $12 billion.

The four Arab states have since presented Qatar with a list of 13 demands, including shutting down Al Jazeera television, closing a Turkish military base in Qatar, downgrading ties with Iran, and paying reparations, as the price of removing the blockade of food and trade items across its only land border (with Saudi Arabia).

Worried at dwindling supplies of food items, Qatar turned to Iran and Turkey, both of which sent shiploads of supplies. Ankara said the demand to shut its military base was interference in Ankara-Doha ties and moved fast to augment Turkish presence there.

Qatar has been asked to sever ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic State, the Al Qaeda, the Hezbollah, and the Jabhat Fateh al Sham, Al Qaeda’s former branch in Syria, and surrender all designated terrorists on its territory. Qatar asserts there will be no negotiations until the four nations restore economic, diplomatic and travel ties with Doha. Most foreign observers view the demands as too extreme to be acceptable. Moscow feels the dispute will thwart efforts to find a Syria settlement or fight terrorism.

Al Jazeera, Qatar’s state-funded satellite broadcaster that articulates a range of opinions and is immensely popular across the Middle East, has irritated Arab Governments that exercise firm control over their own media. Tensions rose sharply in May after it published an article which quoted Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani as praising Israel and Iran, Riyadh’s regional rivals. Qatar claimed the article was planted by hackers, but few believed it.

A solution is still possible as Riyadh and Doha have previously resolved disputes through dialogue. Tehran, however, hopes the rift will weaken the GCC and US-Arab alliance to its strategic advantage, as it has been anxious over the possible emergence of an ‘Arab-Nato’ ever since President Trump sought to unite Muslim countries against Iran.

Beijing has refrained from taking sides in the conflict, but fears that the unexpected flare-up could threaten its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as the Saudi-Iran proxy war could spill over into Balochistan, a critical section of its ambitious project. Currently, all roads to and from the Gulf are in turmoil.

(The writer is a political analyst and an independent researcher

TURMOIL IN THE GULF AND THE PERSIAN INTEREST

http://www.dailypioneer.com/columnists/edit/turmoil-in-the-gulf-and-the-persian-interest.html

COLUMNISTS

Tuesday, 27 June 2017 | Sandhya Jain | in Edit

A resolution to the crisis is still possible as Riyadh and Doha have previously settled disputes through dialogue. Tehran hopes the rift will weaken the GCC and the US-Arab alliance

With a sovereign wealth fund of $335 billion and a miniscule citizenry (12 per cent of 2.5 million residents), Qatar has long enjoyed the luxury of engaging in regional politics without fear of domestic unrest, unlike its neighbours. But on June 5, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain injected high voltage instability in the region by severing ties with Doha over its allegedly “hostile and divisive foreign policy”.

Riyadh, which led the crackdown, demanded that Qatar give up its regional adventurism (read independence) and align its policy with that of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The Saudi boycott was quickly followed by Yemen, the Maldives, Mauritius, Mauritania, and Haftar-controlled eastern Libya. Like Qatar, Jordan also has strong ties with Israel; it quietly lowered diplomatic representation in Doha. Without a rapid de-escalation of the crisis, Qatar could leave the GCC.

Widely seen as a nudge to Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani to step down, the Saudi action has been closely followed by King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s abrupt decision to end the House of Saud’s system of rotating kingship within the clan and establish his own dynasty by appointing his son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 31, as crown prince (June 21).

The downsizing of Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who had excellent ties with Qatar and had successfully dismantled the Al Qaeda’s network in Saudi Arabia, has been accompanied by whispers of Salman abdicating in favour of his son. With many royal family stalwarts sure to be unhappy at the sudden developments in Riyadh, the desert kingdom could itself face more instability than bargained for. In April 2015, Salman had deposed his half-brother, Prince Muqrin, in favour of the now axed Prince Mohammed bin Nayef.

The genesis of the conflict goes back to the late 1990s and early 2000s, when Qatar engaged with Israel, Hezbollah, and Iran, and established itself as a link between international powers and pariah groups. During the US invasion of Afghanistan, Washington reputedly urged Qatar to liaise with the Taliban. After the Arab Spring, Qatar enhanced support to the Muslim Brotherhood, expecting it to emerge victorious (it ruled Egypt for a year till the Army takeover in 2013), which agitated Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which saw the Muslim Brotherhood as a threat to their rule.

Qatar is also accused of ties with Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. Its Gulf neighbours insist that Doha expel all Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood members from its soil, freeze the bank accounts of Hamas members, stop supporting “terrorist organisations”, and stop giving Qatari nationality to citizens of the four countries.

Shiite-majority Bahrain, ruled by a Sunni minority, blames Iran for the 2011 uprising that Saudi troops helped to quell. The angry Arab states demand that Qatar degrade diplomatic and economic ties with Iran and expel members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards from its territory. Doha denies they are even present on its soil; most international observers agree. More pertinently, Qatar and Iran share South Pars, the world’s largest gas field, in the Persian Gulf, so ruining relations is not an option. In fact, Qatar congratulated Hassan Rouhani on his re-election as President of Iran. But Riyadh and Tehran back opposing sides in Bahrain, Syria and Yemen, and seek to curtail each other’s influence in Africa, Asia and the Middle East in general. Doha is caught in the middle.

The current crisis was allegedly triggered by Qatar’s move to quietly pay a ransom of around one billion dollars to the Al-Qaeda and Iran-backed militias in Syria to release Qatari hostages. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi claims his Government has custody of the money (around $500 million). But Riyadh feels a covert deal undermines its counter-terrorism efforts and encourages militias to take hostages for ransom and political leverage. Yet Qatar helped release US Army Sgt Bowe Bergdahl from the Taliban (May 2014) and US journalist Peter Theo Curtis from Jabhat al-Nusra, then Al-Qaeda’s Syria affiliate (August 2014).

As of now, American policy seems confused. President Donald Trump initially expressed support for Riyadh, where he recently made a whopping $110 billion sale of arms, but was soon informed that the US Central Command’s largest overseas base, which manages all military operations in Afghanistan and the Middle East, and the air war against the Islamic State, is at Al Udeid, in Qatar. He later sold Qatar warplanes worth $12 billion.

The four Arab states have since presented Qatar with a list of 13 demands, including shutting down Al Jazeera television, closing a Turkish military base in Qatar, downgrading ties with Iran, and paying reparations, as the price of removing the blockade of food and trade items across its only land border (with Saudi Arabia).

Worried at dwindling supplies of food items, Qatar turned to Iran and Turkey, both of which sent shiploads of supplies. Ankara said the demand to shut its military base was interference in Ankara-Doha ties and moved fast to augment Turkish presence there.

Qatar has been asked to sever ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic State, the Al Qaeda, the Hezbollah, and the Jabhat Fateh al Sham, Al Qaeda’s former branch in Syria, and surrender all designated terrorists on its territory. Qatar asserts there will be no negotiations until the four nations restore economic, diplomatic and travel ties with Doha. Most foreign observers view the demands as too extreme to be acceptable. Moscow feels the dispute will thwart efforts to find a Syria settlement or fight terrorism.

Al Jazeera, Qatar’s state-funded satellite broadcaster that articulates a range of opinions and is immensely popular across the Middle East, has irritated Arab Governments that exercise firm control over their own media. Tensions rose sharply in May after it published an article which quoted Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani as praising Israel and Iran, Riyadh’s regional rivals. Qatar claimed the article was planted by hackers, but few believed it.

A solution is still possible as Riyadh and Doha have previously resolved disputes through dialogue. Tehran, however, hopes the rift will weaken the GCC and US-Arab alliance to its strategic advantage, as it has been anxious over the possible emergence of an ‘Arab-Nato’ ever since President Trump sought to unite Muslim countries against Iran.

Beijing has refrained from taking sides in the conflict, but fears that the unexpected flare-up could threaten its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as the Saudi-Iran proxy war could spill over into Balochistan, a critical section of its ambitious project. Currently, all roads to and from the Gulf are in turmoil.

(The writer is a political analyst and an independent researcher

Iran supremo Ayatollah Khamenei asks Muslims to 'support Kashmiris against tyrants'


Jun 27, 2017 | 09:58 IST | by Times Now, Agencies


The supreme leader of Iran also asked the for the repudiation of oppressors and tyrants who attacked people during the holy month of Ramadan.   | Photo Credit: Getty

New Delhi: Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei called for the Muslim world to support people of Kashmir against state 'tyrants' and two other conflict-ridden countries - Bahrain and Yemen.

The supreme leader of Iran also asked the for the repudiation of oppressors and tyrants who attacked people during the holy month of Ramadan, in view of the clashes in Kashmir on the occasion of Eid-al-Fitr. But his jibe may have greater implications than what meets the eye. 

 

 

He indicated that there is a need for the global Islamic community to identify common enemies, which include Saudi Arabia, Sunni Arabs and India.

Khamenei further went on to criticise Israel and stated Palestine’s woes as a reason for a “full-fledged Jihad” against Benjamin Netanyahu’s nation.

"Palestine is the first important issue of the Muslim world. According to Islamic Fiqh (jurisprudence), when an enemy dominates Muslim lands, jihad is the duty of all, in any form possible," he said.

"Today, the fight against the Zionist regime is obligatory for the Muslim world. Why do some abandon this job?" he asked.

It has to be noted that the old Arab versus Israel battle is a thing of the past, but Khamenei’s statements clearly highlight that he wants to revive the Muslim-Jew issue.

However, the Middle Eastern countries have a lot on their plate, with daily attacks by Islamist groups, resulting in the flagging of the Palestine cause.

At this moment of time, Iran is part of a bigger sectional war under way in West Asia, Khamenei expressed, referring to Yemen and Bahrain. He further went on to say that Yemen and Bahrain are territories Iran would like to bring into confidence, to strengthen its position in the midst of a hotchpotch of terror across the region.

While Khamenei’s direct reference to Kashmir has left many wondering, the jibe could be due to a number of things; it could be due to New Delhi’s increasing ties with Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh. Historically, Iran has enjoyed a friendly relation with India, but with Riyadh taking over the spotlight could be a matter of concern to Iran.

Considering the recent tussle between Tehran and Delhi over a gas field discovered byIndian companies there, and an apparent slowdown of signature projects such expansion of Chabahar Port, there are chances that Riyadh may become the new destination of trade in the Middle East.

Another reason for Khamenei’s comment of Kashmir may be due to PM Modi’s forthcoming visit to Israel, which has clearly not gone down well with Tehran. Narendra Modi is set to visit Israel for the first time and meet with Netanyahu on July 4 for a three-day meet.

The prime minister is set to step foot on Dutch land today, and it will be the final leg of his three-nation tour. During his US visit, the two global leaders had a productive meet in the White House.

The duo praised each other for extending support towards bilateral causes and vowed to fight terrorism together.

June 26, 2017

CPEC: Economic designs and human rights in South Asia

http://www.vijayvaani.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?aid=4350


by Claudia Waedlichon 24 Jun 20174 Comments

The state of Pakistan signed and ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESR) along with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Covenant is monitored by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It is a multilateral treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 16 December 1966, and has been in force since 3 January 1976. Participating states have the right to ask for advice and help from the UN General Assembly on appropriate measures to realise these rights.

 

The Covenant commits its parties to the granting of economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR) to Non-Self-Governing and Trust Territories, and, to certain individuals, rights regarding labour, health, education and an adequate standard of living.

 

The ISESR is part of the International Bill of Rights, along with the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; Pakistan both signed and ratified this. The state of Pakistan claims a general reservation to interpretation of the Covenant within the framework of its constitution.

 

If we can take a more specific view on Part 3, Articles 6 to 15, in which the detailed rights are listed and how they refer to the present situation in Balochistan; a state extant de jure, occupied de facto, as a province of Pakistan.

 

According to the legal standard of International Law, Pakistan has no right to interfere in Balochistan and accordingly uses this “situation” to disregard the signed and ratified rights by this Covenant, arguing their reservations as per their constitution. In my opinion, to profit from, yet to refuse to own its obligations to Balochistan, is criminal exploitation at its worst. Pakistan is abusing the Covenant, which has no regulatory legal powers, to abnegate its obligations to occupied territories.

 

Pakistan’s obligations towards occupied territories include the right to work under just and favourable conditions with the right to form and join trade unions, social security and social insurance. There is no evidence that Pakistan applies these rights to Balochistan.

 

An adequate standard of living, including basic food, water, clothing and housing should be everyone’s right, but the reality in Balochistan today is a horror story of poverty, starvation, with no access to water now in Gwadar, burnt-out houses, increasing since the implementation of CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor), and no possibility of a life with security, peace and dignity. Pakistan wages permanent war through the actions of their armed forces on the civil population of Balochistan.

 

The improvement of living conditions, promised by the contract of CPEC, is applied only to the Chinese, some Punjabis and some Sindhis working on the projects. Balochs have no access to the projects or benefits; the only access is to security workers close to the puppet regime in Quetta.

 

A worse situation refers to the standard of physical and mental health in Balochistan. For example, the population, in the area of Chagai hills where Pakistan set off the atomic bomb in 1998, are suffering from unknown diseases without any medical or financial assistance or care.

 

Moreover, the abduction and torture of Balochs in the Pakistani army camps of Pakistani has been proved.

 

The very culture of Balochistan is being denied by the Pakistani regime as it tries to wipe out the language of the Balochs in schools, closes bookstores and forbids books in Balochi and Brahui in schools and universities; instead the regime has opened madrassas teaching extremism leading to the radicalisation of the former secular society.

 

Pakistan has the task of securing that the CPEC treaty encounters no opposition or setbacks and thus there are an increasing number of military operations along the CPEC routes, with shocking evidence of a growing genocide of the Balochistan people. This silent genocide will change the demography of Balochistan to forward Pakistan’s strategic needs and ensure no resistance from the population.

 

The Balochistan population is seen as a political problem. Once a people rise up against oppression, like the Balochs are doing, authoritarian governments, such as Pakistan and China, resort to violence and criminal means to suppress it. These abhorrent regimes are instigating and exacting appalling acts of cruelty every day on the people of Balochistan.

 

Henry Kissinger once said: “Who controls the food supply controls people, who controls the energy, can control continents, who controls money can control the world.”

 

Food is being used as a weapon in the areas surrounding the CPEC routes, water too, and China plans to invest in, or take over, farmland in the Pashtun areas. They seek to lease agricultural land, to increase harvests through the introduction of pesticides and effectively control the supplies of food in the area. “[There are] one billion starving people in all Asia, where the lack of water has resulted in unprecedented food shortages that threaten the continent`s ability to feed its growing population.”

(https://borgenproject.org/%E2%80%8Bten-facts-hunger-asia/)

 

The goal of the CPEC treaty is a one-sided profit by China with Pakistan trying its utmost to capitalise on the back of it. Balochistan and the other deprived nations in their way will pay the hardest price for it. China and Pakistan have fomented a war over dwindling resources, to exploit oil and gas in Balochistan, and on food and water to sustain their own populations and remain in power. All at the cost of Balochs and Pashtuns.

  

Article 1 of the Covenant states:

All people have the right of self-determination.

For this right, the Covenant should be informed about all the injuries suffered by the Balochs and their country, under the rule of Pakistan.

 

Although the status of Balochistan is an occupied country, there is a case for a de jure existing state which Pakistan exploits to its own advantage. However, it can be interpreted that Pakistan is obliged to adhere to the covenant and uphold the rights of the Balochs because of the lack of a freely elected government of a state of Balochistan.

 

Concerning the rights of Balochs in the context of the Covenant Article 1, paragraph 2: “Freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources, based upon the principle of mutual benefit and international law”.

 

The people of Balochistan are being denied their rights and it is a question of distributive justice which is not guaranteed now by the illegal contract of CPEC.

 

As in my former speeches regarding the legal aspects of CPEC, I maintain that this contract should be renegotiated by the participation of freely elected Balochs and the Covenant should be informed about all illegal aspects of CPEC which contradict the rights of the Covenant Pakistan signed and ratified.

 

Respected Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you for your attention to my speech.

 

Speech at side event during 35th Regular session of UN Human Rights Council on 12 June 2017