Extreme heatwaves could push Gulf climate beyond human endurance, study shows

The Guardian reports: The Gulf in the Middle East, the heartland of the global oil industry, will suffer heatwaves beyond the limit of human survival if climate change is unchecked, according to a new scientific study.

The extreme heatwaves will affect Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Doha and coastal cities in Iran as well as posing a deadly threat to millions of Hajj pilgrims in Saudi Arabia, when the religious festival falls in the summer. The study shows the extreme heatwaves, more intense than anything ever experienced on Earth, would kick in after 2070 and that the hottest days of today would by then be a near-daily occurrence.

“Our results expose a specific regional hotspot where climate change, in the absence of significant [carbon cuts], is likely to severely impact human habitability in the future,” said Prof Jeremy Pal and Prof Elfatih Eltahir, both at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, writing in the journal Nature Climate Change.

They said the future climate for many locations in the Gulf would be like today’s extreme climate in the desert of Northern Afar, on the African side of the Red Sea, where there are no permanent human settlements at all. But the research also showed that cutting greenhouse gas emissions now could avoid this fate. [Continue reading…]


UAE: Where rape victims routinely get jailed

BBC News reports: In the United Arab Emirates, migrant women are routinely jailed for having sex outside marriage. Desperate to leave the country, one Filipina maid who was raped found a dramatic way to escape.

There wasn’t much in the village Monica left behind. No clinic, no school, no street lights – just a crossing of dirt roads and a few concrete houses roofed with tin. What really troubled her, though, was the lack of prospects.

She had three young children and a husband who barely made enough to feed them. If she could work in the Gulf for even a few years, she thought, perhaps she’d be able to give those kids a different kind of life.

It took 10 hours for the bus to reach the capital of the Philippines, Manila. There, Monica signed up to an employment agency and flew to the United Arab Emirates, where she began work as a maid for an Emirati family.

The malls and skyscrapers of Dubai and Abu Dhabi were a world away from the rural poverty of her village, and at first Monica was excited to have a job. Gradually, though, she began to miss her children, and to feel ground down by the drudgery of the work and the meanness of her employers. [Continue reading…]


Why are the Gulf states so reluctant to take in refugees?

By Rana Jawad, University of Bath

Europe’s reaction to the refugee crisis has hardly been a calm and considered one; with fences erected and border controls reinstated, the continent’s governments are struggling to agree on a response.

But at least Europe’s governments are acting. In the Middle East, things are rather different. In particular, the Arab Gulf States are catching serious flack for their response to the crisis – or rather, their failure to respond.

One big question is reverberating in the minds of the general public, expert observers and policy-makers; why have the Gulf states, who are among the richest countries in the world, not taken in any Syrian refugees? There’s no need to rewrite the commentary that’s already out there: many articles have provided useful statistics and background information on the international conventions and treaties the Persian Gulf countries are signed up to, and their failure to honour them.

What all this misses, though, is the general lack of social justice and a social welfare ethos in the Persian Gulf and Middle East in general. This is a complex story about the mindset of a region in disunity and disarray.

[Read more…]


Coalition attacks Yemen capital after UAE, Saudi soldiers killed

Reuters reports: Warplanes from the United Arab Emirates struck Houthi targets across Yemen, state news agency WAM said on Saturday, a day after at least 60 soldiers from a Saudi-led coalition, mostly Emiratis, were killed in an attack in central Yemen.

Medical sources at hospitals in the capital Sanaa, which has been under effective control of the Iranian-allied Houthi militia for almost a year, said about 24 civilians were killed in the city as a result of the attacks.

WAM said the UAE air force struck a mine-making plant in the Houthi-dominated Saada province in northern Yemen, as well as military camps and weapon stores in the central Ibb province, causing “heavy damage”.

Apart from 45 Emiratis and five Bahrainis, Saudi state-run Al Ekhbariya TV reported on Saturday that 10 Saudi soldiers were also killed in the attack in Marib province on Friday, quoting Brigadier-General Ahmed al-Asiri, the coalition spokesman.

Asiri told Al Arabiya TV that four Yemeni soldiers were also killed in the attack on the coalition base in Marib.

Friday’s death toll was the highest for the coalition since it began its assault on the Houthis in March, and is one of the worst losses of life in the history of the UAE military. [Continue reading…]


The Arab world’s wealthiest nations are doing next to nothing for Syria’s refugees

Ishaan Tharoor writes: To varying degrees, elements within Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the U.A.E. and Kuwait have invested in the Syrian conflict, playing a conspicuous role in funding and arming a constellation of rebel and Islamist factions fighting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

None of these countries are signatories of the United Nations’ 1951 Refugee Convention, which defines what a refugee is and lays out their rights, as well as the obligations of states to safeguard them. For a Syrian to enter these countries, they would have to apply for a visa, which, in the current circumstances, is rarely granted. According to the BBC, the only Arab countries where a Syrian can travel without a visa are Algeria, Mauritania, Sudan and Yemen — hardly choice or practical destinations.

Like European countries, Saudi Arabia and its neighbors also have fears over new arrivals taking jobs from citizens, and may also invoke concerns about security and terrorism. But the current gulf aid outlay for Syrian refugees, which amounts to collective donations under $1 billion (the United States has given four times that sum), seems short — and is made all the more galling when you consider the vast sums Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. poured into this year’s war effort in Yemen, an intervention some consider a strategic blunder.

As Bobby Ghosh, managing editor of the news site Quartz, points out, the gulf states in theory have a far greater ability to deal with large numbers of arrivals than Syria’s more immediate and poorer neighbors, Lebanon and Jordan:

The region has the capacity to quickly build housing for the refugees. The giant construction companies that have built the gleaming towers of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Riyadh should be contracted to create shelters for the influx. Saudi Arabia has plenty of expertise at managing large numbers of arrivals: It receives an annual surge of millions of Hajj pilgrims to Mecca. There’s no reason all this knowhow can’t be put to humanitarian use.

No reason other than either indifference or a total lack of political will. [Continue reading…]


Anti-Houthi forces take strategic city in Yemen, Emirati troops killed

Reuters reports: Fighters backed by an Arab military coalition seized the key city of Zinjibar in southern Yemen on Saturday, residents and militia sources said, dealing another major blow to the dominant Houthi group.

The capital city of Abyan province on the Arabian Sea had been a major focus of forces battling the Iranian-allied Houthis. It is the fourth regional capital they have won since taking control of the port of Aden last month.

Three soldiers from the United Arab Emirates were reported killed while taking part in the Saudi-led military campaign against the Houthis, UAE state news agency WAM said on Saturday. [Continue reading…]

IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly reports: The impasse in Yemen’s conflict appears to have been broken by the deployment of a powerful Emirati armoured formation: a logistical triumph that has helped pro-government forces push out of the southern port city of Aden and capture Al-Anad Air Base 48 km to the northwest.

The military deployment has not been announced by the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) or covered by the country’s media, but its scale has become increasingly apparent as more photographs and videos have emerged from southern Yemen since 12 July, when Oshkosh M-ATV mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles were spotted in Aden for the first time during the battle to secure the city’s airport.

The M-ATV is used by Emirati and Saudi special forces, but the vehicles in southern Yemen are crewed by men wearing civilian clothing, raising the possibility that they are Yemenis who have been trained and equipped by the Saudi-led coalition that has been bombing Yemen since late March in an attempt to reinstall President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.

By the end of July it had become apparent that the UAE had deployed regular military forces. Two BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles were filmed by an Al-Jazeera news crew on 28 July and a Leclerc armoured recovery vehicle was photographed in Aden about the same time.

While these vehicles could potentially have been landed by the C-17 airlifters that the UAE confirmed were flying into the international airport, albeit on humanitarian rather than military missions, it subsequently became apparent that they were part of what must be an amphibious landing on a scale not seen in the Middle East since the liberation of Kuwait in 1991. [Continue reading…]


How the UAE operates as a police state

Matt J. Duffy, PhD writes: Through a series of overt and covert actions, the security forces of the United Arab Emirates have created an environment in which internal criticism is practically nonexistent and external critics are targeted.

The result is a shiny veneer of liberalism — propped up by partnerships with Western organizations such as the Louvre, Guggenheim and New York University — while in reality the country operates like a modern police state.

For the average Emirati, the security forces are a well-known, if enigmatic, institution. One Emirati said, “If you say the wrong thing here, then they’ll come and make you disappear.” [Continue reading…]


How UAE suppresses freedom of the press

Newsweek reports: Sean O’Driscoll, who co-wrote a damning investigation into human rights violations and brutal labor practices endured by migrant workers building New York University’s campus in Abu Dhabi published by The New York Times, was officially deported from the United Arab Emirates last October. Before that happened, he says he was tailed for months by pursuit cars, bribed, propositioned to spy on other foreign journalists and possibly traced by way of his cell phone. Here’s the story of what allegedly happens when a journalist tries to report on unflattering activity in the UAE.

O’Driscoll had been working in Abu Dhabi as a journalist for nearly two years when the trouble started. In December 2013, the Guardian published an article he co-wrote under a pseudonym (Glenn Carrick) examining the labor conditions involved in erecting the Guggenheim, the Louvre, and a New York University campus on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi. O’Driscoll, who is Irish and tall, used the pseudonym for his safety, but when a video circulated with the Guardian story showed a tall guy—face obscured and voice deepened, but with a distinct Irish accent—asking questions, O’Driscoll figured he’d had his cover blown.

“How many tall irish reporters are there working in Abu Dhabi asking questions about labor rights? It’s kind of a narrow field,” he says.

That’s when he says the pursuit cars started showing up in his rearview mirror. [Continue reading…]


ISIS female bloggers draw European women to Syria

Brenda Stoter reports: On Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites, young Muslim women who live in the so-called Islamic State portray their lives as a sort of Disneyland for Muslims. IS’ recruitment campaign is mostly conducted online, and female jihadists have proved to be some of the best propagandists. They share pictures of their dinners, write blogs about their husbands and encourage others to join them by posting sentimental status updates about the advantages of living in an Islamic state. They even offer to help plan the trips of those interested in joining them.

Photographs of cozy dinners, jars of Nutella and romantic updates about their husbands are not the only things Western women share on social media, however. Those who join IS also learn how to handle an AK-47 (“women here don’t ask for jewelry, they go for a kalash”), excitedly show off such items as suicide belts (“a gift from my husband”) and glorify the murder of opponents by decapitation (“I can watch those video’s over and over again”).

Although most of the women fulfill such traditional roles as taking care of the household and giving birth and raising children, they are also allowed to work. An English-speaking woman who runs the Diary of a Muhajirah wrote on her Facebook page that women can work as teachers, doctors and nurses. “The Islamic State is planning more programs which sisters can benefit from. And if you are single and you don’t want to get married, no one will force you. You can stay in an all-sisters hostel and get a monthly allowance,” she wrote. [Continue reading…]


40,000 Maasai told to leave their ancestral land to make way for UAE big-game hunting company

The Guardian reports: Tanzania has been accused of reneging on its promise to 40,000 Masai pastoralists by going ahead with plans to evict them and turn their ancestral land into a reserve for the royal family of Dubai to hunt big game.

Activists celebrated last year when the government said it had backed down over a proposed 1,500 sq km “wildlife corridor” bordering the Serengeti national park that would serve a commercial hunting and safari company based in the United Arab Emirates.

Now the deal appears to be back on and the Masai have been ordered to quit their traditional lands by the end of the year. Masai representatives will meet the prime minister, Mizengo Pinda, in Dodoma on Tuesday to express their anger. They insist the sale of the land would rob them of their heritage and directly or indirectly affect the livelihoods of 80,000 people. The area is crucial for grazing livestock on which the nomadic Masai depend.

Unlike last year, the government is offering compensation of 1 billion shillings (£369,350), not to be paid directly but to be channelled into socio-economic development projects. The Masai have dismissed the offer.

“I feel betrayed,” said Samwel Nangiria, co-ordinator of the local Ngonett civil society group. “One billion is very little and you cannot compare that with land. It’s inherited. Their mothers and grandmothers are buried in that land. There’s nothing you can compare with it.”

Nangiria said he believes the government never truly intended to abandon the scheme in the Loliondo district but was wary of global attention. “They had to pretend they were dropping the agenda to fool the international press.” [Continue reading…]

As Proudhon wrote, property is theft.

The land on which indigenous populations depend is invariably land upon which no conception of ownership has ever been imposed.

The people belong to the land.

Conquest and settlement invert this relationship, create property, and then assert exclusive rights over that property.

These assertions are inherently abusive because they mean that the land has been enslaved and now exists in the service of its owners.

In the case of the Maasai ancestral lands, the fact that these lands will be turned over to big-game hunters to indulge in regal rituals of slaughter — opportunities for sclerotic, impotent tycoons to pretend they are more virile than lions — fittingly illustrates the destructive nature of ownership.


Obama’s ill-conceived coalition against ISIS

Musa al-Gharbi writes: The U.S. was the only non-Arab actor to participate in the Syria raids. Collaborating with the U.S. were five other Arab states: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, Bahrain, and Jordan.

While many pundits have and will continue to describe them as “moderate Arab allies” — what “moderate” usually means is something akin to “compliant with the U.S. agenda in the region.” What may be more significant to note about these powers is that they are all monarchies—in fact, the actors who took part in the strike are most of the region’s surviving dynasties (excluding only Oman, Kuwait, and Morocco).

The Gulf monarchs are far from beloved in Iraq, even among the Sunni population. Readers may remember that the “Sunni” Hussein regime wanted to go to war with the KSA, provoking the U.S.-led Operation Desert Shield. There is a long enmity between the peoples of Iraq and the Gulf monarchs — and an even deeper enmity between these powers and the Syrians. So the idea that the populations of IS-occupied Iraq and Syria will find these forces and their actions legitimate simply in virtue of the fact that they are “Sunni” is a gross oversimplification that reinforces problematic sectarian narratives even as it obscures important geopolitical truths. Among them:

If anything, the alliance that carried out the strike actually reinforces the narrative of the IS: it will be framed as the United States and its oppressive monarchic proxies collaborating to stifle the Arab Uprisings in order to preserve the doomed status quo.

In a similar manner, it is somewhat irrelevant that salafi and “moderate” Sunni Muslim religious authorities have condemned al-Baghdadi’s “caliphate” as invalid and ill-conceived — in part because it presupposes that most of the foreign fighters who are joining ISIS for ideological reasons are devout, well-informed about fiqh and closely following the rulings of jurists, etc. In fact, the opposite seems to be true, and many of those coming from abroad to join the IS are motivated primarily by factors other than religion. Even much of their indigenous support is from people who join for money, or else due to their grievances against the governments in Iraq and/or Syria — not because they buy into the vision of al-Baghdadi and his ilk. Accordingly, the value of “Sunni buy-in,” framed religiously, is probably both misstated and overstated.

And not only will the involvement of the Gulf kingdoms strikes be extremely controversial on the ground in Iraq and Syria, but also within the emirates who took part in these raids. Syria and the so-called “Islamic State” remain highly polarizing issues across the region — many will be apprehensive of their governments getting involved, others actually support the aspirations of these mujahedeen and view their own regimes as corrupt. [Continue reading…]


Map of U.S. airstrikes across Syria


U.S. and allies launch airstrikes on ISIS targets in Syria

The New York Times reports: The United States and allies launched airstrikes against Sunni militants in Syria early Tuesday, unleashing a torrent of cruise missiles and precision-guided bombs from the air and sea on the militants’ de facto capital of Raqqa and along the porous Iraq border.

American fighter jets and armed Predator and Reaper drones, flying alongside warplanes from several Arab allies, struck a broad array of targets in territory controlled by the militants, known as the Islamic State. American defense officials said the targets included weapons supplies, depots, barracks and buildings the militants use for command and control. Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired from United States Navy ships in the region.

“I can confirm that U.S. military and partner nation forces are undertaking military action against ISIL terrorists in Syria using a mix of fighter, bomber and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles,” said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, using an alternate name for the Islamic State. [Continue reading…]


U.S. mobilizes allies to widen assault on ISIS

The New York Times reports: The United States has begun to mobilize a broad coalition of allies behind potential American military action in Syria and is moving toward expanded airstrikes in northern Iraq, administration officials said on Tuesday.

President Obama, the officials said, was broadening his campaign against the Sunni militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and nearing a decision to authorize airstrikes and airdrops of food and water around the northern Iraqi town of Amerli, home to members of Iraq’s Turkmen minority. The town of 12,000 has been under siege for more than two months by the militants.

“Rooting out a cancer like ISIL won’t be easy, and it won’t be quick,” Mr. Obama said in a speech on Tuesday to the American Legion in Charlotte, N.C., using an alternative name for ISIS. He said that the United States was building a coalition to “take the fight to these barbaric terrorists,” and that the militants would be “no match” for a united international community.

Administration officials characterized the dangers facing the Turkmen, who are Shiite Muslims considered infidels by ISIS, as similar to the threat faced by thousands of Yazidis, who were driven to Mount Sinjar in Iraq after attacks by the militants. The United Nations special representative for Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, said in a statement three days ago that the situation in Amerli “demands immediate action to prevent the possible massacre of its citizens.”

As Mr. Obama considered new strikes, the White House began its diplomatic campaign to enlist allies and neighbors in the region to increase their support for Syria’s moderate opposition and, in some cases, to provide support for possible American military operations. The countries likely to be enlisted include Australia, Britain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, officials said. [Continue reading…]


Egypt, UAE launched airstrikes in Libya

Foreign Policy: Two airstrikes in the past week on Islamist militias fighting for control of Tripoli, Libya, are raising questions about who was behind the attacks and whether the United States knew about or condoned them. On Saturday, Aug. 23, Agence France-Presse reported that Islamist militants in Libya pointed the finger at Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The Egyptian military quickly denied any involvement. On Monday, the New York Times reported that American officials confirmed that the Egyptians and Emiratis had launched the strikes, but said they’d caught the United States by surprise.

That claim seemed incredible, though, in light of the presence in the region of the U.S. military, which would have certainly detected a series of airstrikes. “With as many Aegis-class ships as the U.S. Navy has in the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean, there is no possible way the UAE could pull this off without the U.S. knowing it,” said Christopher Harmer, a former Navy officer and an analyst with the Institute for the Study of War. Harmer said that he had no information about U.S. involvement, “but the U.S. government knows who bombed what,” he said.

Egypt and the UAE are highly motivated to strike out at Islamist fighters, whose gains in Libya are only the latest reminder that a new wave of religiously aligned political groups and militias threaten secular regimes and monarchies across the region.

“Libya is a serious situation,” Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar told Foreign Policy earlier this month. Morocco has organized a political dialogue among various factions in Libya in an effort to bring the country together. Mezouar has also worked closely with Egypt on the issue, specifically discussing concerns about terrorism in his July visit to Cairo.

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki provided no additional information on the strikes during a press briefing on Monday. She reiterated the Obama administration’s policy that “Libya’s challenges are political, and violence will not resolve them.” She added: “Our focus is on the political process there. We believe outside interference exacerbates current divisions and undermines Libya’s democratic transition.”

When asked whether Washington would be “disappointed” if Egypt and the UAE had conducted the airstrikes, Psaki replied, “I’m not going to go down that rabbit hole.” [Continue reading…]

The Associated Press today reports: Egypt and the United Arab Emirates secretly carried out airstrikes against Islamist militias inside Libya, U.S. officials said Tuesday, decrying the intervention as an escalation of the North African country’s already debilitating turmoil. They said the United States had no prior notification of the attacks.

One official said the two countries and Saudi Arabia have been supporting for months a renegade general’s campaign against Libyan militant groups, but that the Saudis don’t appear to have played a role in recent strikes. Another official said Washington knew about Egyptian and U.A.E. plans for a possible operation and warned them against going through with the effort.


Arab ‘leaders,’ viewing #Hamas as worse than #Israel, quietly support destruction of #Gaza

The New York Times reports: Battling Palestinian militants in Gaza two years ago, Israel found itself pressed from all sides by unfriendly Arab neighbors to end the fighting.

Not this time.

After the military ouster of the Islamist government in Cairo last year, Egypt has led a new coalition of Arab states — including Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — that has effectively lined up with Israel in its fight against Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip. That, in turn, may have contributed to the failure of the antagonists to reach a negotiated cease-fire even after more than three weeks of bloodshed.

“The Arab states’ loathing and fear of political Islam is so strong that it outweighs their allergy to Benjamin Netanyahu,” the prime minister of Israel, said Aaron David Miller, a scholar at the Wilson Center in Washington and a former Middle East negotiator under several presidents.

“I have never seen a situation like it, where you have so many Arab states acquiescing in the death and destruction in Gaza and the pummeling of Hamas,” he said. “The silence is deafening.” [Continue reading…]


Canada denies secretly giving Israeli assassin a new identity after he helped kill Hamas leader

n13-iconNational Post reports: A week after a Montreal businessman claimed Canada had provided a new identity and passport to an Israeli Mossad agent involved in the assassination of a Hamas leader in Dubai, the government denied the sensational story on Friday.

While Ottawa is usually reluctant to comment on national security matters, the allegation of Canadian involvement in the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was apparently considered so damaging it required a response.

“There is no truth to these allegations that the government of Canada provided support to protect those wanted in the 2010 death of a Hamas leader,” said a government official with knowledge of the case, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The charge that the government had secretly resettled a member of the hit squad that drugged and suffocated Mr. Al-Mabhouh in a five star hotel room was made last weekend by Arian Azarbar, an Iranian-Canadian businessman.

He told the Ottawa Sun he learned about it from a Passport Canada employee with whom he had an affair. The passport officer, a member of the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team, had been investigating Mr. Azarbar and has since been suspended. [Continue reading…]

A non-denial denial? It depends on whether the individual in question had been identified as one those “those wanted.”

The Montreal Gazette adds: [A] Montreal police detective was reportedly reassigned in January after allegations surfaced that he, too, leaked information to Azarbar. The businessman is identified in Montreal police documents of being a possible Iranian spy, according to Montreal media reports.

Azarbar said Tuesday he has known the police officer for years, but said he had nothing to do with the officer’s reassignment. He also categorically denied any involvement with his native Iran. He said he has lived in Montreal’s West Island community since the age of five.

“I’ve been to Iran once in my whole life for two weeks,” he said.

He said his troubles began when he received a government letter asking him to meet with federal agents.

There followed one or two initial meetings with Kennedy and a man he believes was from the Department of Foreign Affairs. He said they were most interested in learning about his business trips to Venezuela, where he sells housing construction products.

He said he also had spent time around Hugo Chavez, the country’s fiery socialist leader who died last year.

“Did I work for the Iranian government? No, never. Did I like Chavez? Absolutely. I thought he was one of the greatest men in the world.”

Azarbar blamed much of his situation on a federal customs official in Toronto. Azarbar believes the man was jealous of his relationship with Kennedy, who has been separated from her husband, he said.

“When he found out about my relationship with Trina, he went berserk. It’s him that made this whole story.”


UAE is a dangerous place to express political opinion

Human Rights Watch: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2013 stifled free expression, and subjected dissidents to manifestly unfair trials marred by credible allegations of torture, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2014.

A court sentenced 69 dissidents to prison terms of up to 10 years in July on charges of aiming to overthrow the government, though most of the evidence the court cited in the 243-page judgment suggested that they had only engaged in peaceful political activities. Many of those convicted, and another group of 30 dissidents facing similar charges, said they experienced mistreatment in pretrial detention that in some cases amounted to torture.

“The UAE’s repressive laws and dysfunctional justice system belie the government’s efforts to present the country as moderate and progressive,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The UAE might seem like a safe place to shop, do business, or take a winter holiday but it’s becoming a very dangerous place to express a political opinion.” [Continue reading…]