organization:gulf cooperation council

  • Accelerated remittances growth to low- and middle-income countries in 2018

    Remittances to low- and middle-income countries grew rapidly and are projected to reach a new record in 2018, says the latest edition of the World Bank’s Migration and Development Brief, released today.

    The Bank estimates that officially recorded remittances to developing countries will increase by 10.8 percent to reach $528 billion in 2018. This new record level follows robust growth of 7.8 percent in 2017. Global remittances, which include flows to high-income countries, are projected to grow by 10.3 percent to $689 billion.

    Remittance flows rose in all regions, most notably in Europe and Central Asia (20 percent) and South Asia (13.5 percent), followed by Sub-Saharan Africa (9.8 percent), Latin America and the Caribbean (9.3 percent), the Middle East and North Africa (9.1 percent), and East Asia and the Pacific (6.6 percent). Growth was driven by a stronger economy and employment situation in the United States and a rebound in outward flows from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and the Russian Federation.

    Among major remittance recipients, India retains its top spot, with remittances expected to total $80 billion this year, followed by China ($67 billion), Mexico and the Philippines ($34 billion each), and Egypt ($26 billion).

    As global growth is projected to moderate, future remittances to low- and middle-income countries are expected to grow moderately by 4 percent to reach $549 billion in 2019. Global remittances are expected to grow 3.7 percent to $715 billion in 2019.

    The Brief notes that the global average cost of sending $200 remains high at 6.9 percent in the third quarter of 2018. Reducing remittance costs to 3 percent by 2030 is a global target under #Sustainable_Development_Goals (SDG) 10.7. Increasing the volume of remittances is also a global goal under the proposals for raising financing for the SDGs.

    https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2018/12/08/accelerated-remittances-growth-to-low-and-middle-income-countries-in-2018

    #remittances #migrations #statistiques #chiffres #2018 #coût #SDGs


  • UAE. The Other Murderous Gulf - Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

    https://carnegieendowment.org/2018/10/30/other-murderous-gulf-pub-77606

    Since the murder of Jamal Khashoggi by a Saudi hit squad in early October, Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and patron of Saudi Arabia’s own crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), has resembled the cat that swallowed the canary. The disastrous regional adventurism and ruthless despotism of his protégé has averted Washington’s gaze from the UAE’s own responsibility for the carnage that is roiling the region. But the UAE should not be given a get out jail free card. If the White House refuses to hold the Emirates accountable for undermining U.S. interests, Congress should use its constitutional power to step into the leadership void.

    Richard Sokolsky

    Richard Sokolsky is a nonresident senior fellow in Carnegie’s Russia and Eurasia Program. His work focuses on U.S. policy toward Russia in the wake of the Ukraine crisis.
    Throughout Yemen’s three-and-a-half-year civil war, the Emiratis have been as brutal and reckless as the Saudis. While Saudi aircraft slaughter innocent civilians at wedding halls, funerals, homes, markets, schools, and ports, UAE boots on the ground have also contributed to the humanitarian disaster. The UAE-led military offensive in and around the port city of Hodeidah has been a catastrophe: over 400,000 Yemenis have been displaced since June and the fighting has considerably worsened the country’s already alarming food crisis and famine. Human rights organizations have reported on secret UAE-administered detention facilities where torture, beatings, electric shocks, and killings have occurred. The UAE royal family has paid retired U.S. Special Forces soldiers to track down and assassinate Yemeni political figures that it believes are in league with the wider Muslim Brotherhood movement. In Aden, the UAE has organized, supplied, and paid militias to foment fractious proxy violence. Yemenis who once saw the Emirati intervention as an heroic act to defend their nation’s sovereignty from a ruthless Iran-supported militia are now depicting it as an occupation, if not colonization.

    The UAE is part of the coalition of “Saudi-led” Arab countries (along with Bahrain and Egypt) that imposed a blockade against Qatar in May 2017. These nations were attempting to, among other things, end Qatar’s “terrorism,” cut its ties to Iran, get it to stop meddling in the internal affairs of other countries, and force it to pursue a less independent foreign policy. The UAE has taken an even more hardline stance against the Qataris than the Saudis, in part because it is more fanatical than Riyadh about eradicating any trace of Muslim Brotherhood influence in Qatar and the region more broadly. The boycott, which has divided America’s partners in the Gulf Cooperation Council, has been a disaster for both the UAE and Saudi Arabia, affording both Iran and Turkey opportunities to expand their influence in Doha. Nor has it worked out well for Washington, which hoped to forge a united Gulf front to contain Iranian influence. But for the UAE, the Saudis have been a useful surrogate for outsized regional ambitions; the Emiratis’ relationship with the Kingdom has allowed them to punch well above their weight. That’s not a good thing.


  • MbS: The New Saddam of Arabia? – LobeLog
    https://lobelog.com/mbs-the-new-saddam-of-arabia

    As Mohammad bin Salman (MbS) has terrorized his opponents at home and abroad, fear has spread within the Saudi kingdom. Has he become the new Saddam of Arabia? As Iraq’s Saddam Hussein did in the 1980s, MbS is cementing his power domestically and regionally through fear and economic largesse under the guise of fighting Iran, Islamic radicalism, and terrorism.

    Much like the tyrant of Baghdad did in Iraq, MbS has crushed his domestic and regional opponents. Both of them have enlisted the support of foreign powers, especially the United States and Britain, to buttress their hold on power in their territories and expand their reach internationally. They both spoke the language of “reform,” which appeals to Western audiences, and both demonized Iran as a promoter of regional instability and a source of evil internationally.

    They both used chemical weapons against their opponents—Saddam against his Kurdish citizens and against Iran during the Iran-Iraq war; MbS against civilians in Yemen. Saddam threatened and later invaded his neighbor Kuwait. MbS has waged a vicious campaign against his neighbor and fellow Gulf Cooperation Council member Qatar and threatened to invade it.

    Saddam and MbS also cynically donned the mantle of Sunni Islam in their hypocritical claims against the so-called Shia Crescent and its main proponent Iran. Saddam’s “Republic of Fear” seems to be slowly morphing into a “Kingdom of Fear” under MbS.

    #arabie_saoudite


  • Exclusive: Mesa to include nine countries while prioritising Iran threat - The National

    https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/exclusive-mesa-to-include-nine-countries-while-prioritising-iran-threat-

    S Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Arabian Gulf Affairs Tim Lenderking has spent the last three weeks in shuttle regional diplomacy across the Gulf to lay the groundwork for a US-hosted summit in January that would launch the Middle East Strategic Alliance (Mesa), a concept similar to an Arab Nato.

    In an interview with The National on Wednesday, Mr Lenderking divulged details about the structure of Mesa and its long term prospects. He said besides the Gulf Cooperation Council members – Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman – the US and both Egypt and Jordan would be members of such an alliance.

    Mr Lenderking said that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be hosting a GCC + 2 meeting on the margins of United Nations General Assembly on Friday to prepare for the January summit.

    “This stems from the Riyadh summit in 2017 where everyone agreed that the US and the GCC would meet on an annual basis...we added on top of that the keen interest on both sides in building Mesa,” Mr Lenderking explained. The alliance would be based on a security, economic and political agreement that would bind together the GCC countries, along with the US, Egypt and Jordan.

    Notwithstanding the different policy priorities within the GCC itself, Mr Lenderking said the idea of Mesa is “it builds a good strong shield against threats in the Gulf,” naming Iran, cyber concerns, attacks on infrastructure, and coordinating conflict management from Syria to Yemen as part of its agenda.

    “The more we have coordinated efforts, the more effective in enhancing stability,” he said, adding that Iran was the “number one threat” on the Mesa list.

    The senior US official confirmed that the US would be part of the alliance and “we [US] would like to agree on the concept of Mesa by the January summit.”

    He cautioned, however, that these conversations are still in their early stages and “if we find we need to change dates we need to be flexible on that”.


  • The Exclusionary Turn in GCC Politics | ACW
    Kristian Coates Ulrichsen

    http://arabcenterdc.org/policy_analyses/the-exclusionary-turn-in-gcc-politics

    The sudden rupture in diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Canada has thrown a spotlight on the regional political dynamics that have placed unprecedented and potentially irreversible strains on the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Over the past three years the inclusionary vision that had originally created and sustained the GCC as a grouping of six relatively like-minded states has given way to an exclusionary security-centered approach to regional affairs. The GCC always functioned best as a loose collective of monarchies whose ruling families guarded their autonomy and resisted attempts to draw closer on “big ticket” issues that encroached on national sovereignty. This combination of flexibility and consensus saw the GCC states through three major interstate wars in the Gulf––the Iran-Iraq war, 1980-1988; the war to expel Iraq from Kuwait, 1990-1991; and the invasion of Iraq, 2003––and helped them maintain relative stability in an otherwise conflict-wracked region. However, the emergence of a hyper-hawkish geopolitical axis running from Riyadh to Abu Dhabi has widened existing fractures, created new fault lines, and inflicted potentially long-term damage on what had been the most durable regional organization in the Arab world.


  • The Gulf Impasse’s One Year Anniversary & the Changing Regional Dynamics – Gulf International Forum

    Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, Ph.D., Fellow for the Middle East, Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.

    http://gulfif.com/the-gulf-impasse

    A year has passed since the Qatar News Agency was hacked and implanted with ‘fake news’. Ten days later this hacking was followed by the diplomatic and economic embargo of Qatar by four regional states – Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Egypt. The element of surprise strategy applied by the Quartet was intended to shock the Qatari government into acceding to their demands. Now, one year later this approach is misplaced as Qatar proved more resilient than anticipated. Rather than isolating Qatar regionally and internationally, the crisis has widened the cracks in the Gulf into a chasm and has generated unintended consequences that risk inflicting generational damage on its political and social fabric. As with the Iraqi invasion and occupation of Kuwait in 1990, the blockade of Qatar is an era-rupturing event that will reverberate through the regional politics and international relations of the Gulf for years to come.

    Evolving Threat Perceptions
    The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was formed in 1981 largely in response to regional security threats triggered by the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq War in 1980. The six states that came together in Abu Dhabi to form the GCC often differed in their foreign policy outlook. The five smallest Gulf States shared varying degrees of wariness toward Saudi Arabia, reflecting in part a history of border disputes. For example, Kuwait was put under Saudi blockade in the 1920s and 1930s, Oman and Abu Dhabi had territorial disputes with Saudi Arabia from the 1950s to the 1970s, and as recently as 1992 and 1993 skirmishes occurred on the Saudi-Qatari border. Simmering unease in smaller Gulf capitals at the prospect of Saudi domination of GCC structures hampered attempts to construct collective military and security policies such as the Peninsula Shield Force or a common internal security agreement.

    And yet, throughout the three major wars in the Gulf – the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88), the Gulf War (1991), and the war and subsequent US-led occupation of Iraq (2003-11), the GCC remained a bastion of relative stability in a region gripped by conflict and insecurity. During this tumultuous period, all six GCC states retained a common threat perception enabling them to overcome instances of intra-GCC friction, such as Saudi and Emirati attempts to reverse the 1995 succession of Qatar’s Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani or the Emirati walkout from the planned GCC monetary union in 2010 after Riyadh was chosen over Abu Dhabi as the site of the prospective GCC central bank. Indeed, GCC states have always worked best together in the face of external threats that draw together the six ruling families’ common interest in political survival – evidenced by the decision in 2011 to revive and dispatch the Peninsula Shield Force to Bahrain to assist in the restoration of order and the creation of a $10 billion GCC fund to assist Bahrain and Oman in the wake of Arab Spring unrest.


  • Trump Is Ending One Gulf Conflict to Start Another – Foreign Policy
    http://foreignpolicy.com/2018/05/03/trump-is-ending-one-gulf-conflict-to-start-another

    Now Trump is back to intervening — but only to make an apparent U-turn. Instead of hammering the Qataris as he did last June, the president just sent his newly confirmed secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, to the Middle East, where he read the Saudis the riot act. Pompeo told Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir to fix the problem with Qataris. Enough is apparently enough.

    What changed? The Trump administration realized its relationship with #Iran is coming to a head, and it wants a unified Gulf Cooperation Council on its side. Trump’s change of tone on Qatar almost certainly means he has made up his mind to bust the Iran nuclear deal in the coming weeks.

    Ironically, the Saudi-Emirati-Egyptian-Bahraini blockade had become, in the interim, the new regional reality, with #Qatar using its considerable financial wherewithal to tread water. It has set up its own dairy industry, adjusted Qatar Airways’ flight patterns, deepened its ties with Turkey, and accepted shipments of food from Iran, especially in the early days of the blockade. The emir has also used the fact that not everyone in the region was on board with the four countries’ program to his own diplomatic advantage.

    The blockading nations, for their part, once they understood the Qataris would not knuckle under and accede to 13 demands they had laid out as a condition for ending the blockade, shifted to working toward Doha’s long-term isolation in the region. The conflict has thus settled into a pattern of each side indulging in various degrees of trolling via fake news, strategic leaks, and hacks to embarrass the other. At times the level of pettiness has barely approached middle school levels. Etihad Airways has, for example, removed the word “Qatar” from its moving map program; meanwhile, the repeated public dumps of the Emirati ambassador’s emails have taken on a vendetta quality.

    #nuit_torride #mesquineries
    #bagarre_de_cour_de_récréation (c’est pas moi qui le dit…)


  • The UAE’s ’alternative GCC’

    https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/12/uae-kuwait-alternative-gcc-gulf-qatar-crisis.html

    In a move that certain observers saw as an effort to undermine the Kuwaiti emir, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced a new partnership with Saudi Arabia. The announcement came only hours before the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Kuwait on Dec. 4, which fell apart after two hours and was only attended by two council members’ heads of state: the Kuwaiti and Qatari monarchs. The summit will be remembered as the worst GCC summit to date. In addition, the Kuwaiti efforts to mediate the six-month-old Qatar crisis have thus far proven futile.

    This new UAE-Saudi partnership represents an alternative to the GCC while the Qatar crisis continues. Yet it is premature to conclude that it intends to be a substitute for the subregional organization founded by six Arabian Peninsula monarchies in 1981. Regardless, the UAE-Saudi partnership’s purpose is to achieve between these two nations essentially what the GCC was intended to accomplish among all six of the GCC members: enhance transnational cooperation in the areas of military, economics, culture and politics.


  • Panique : Netanyahou, l’Iran et le Hezbollah
    http://www.dedefensa.org/article/panique-netanyahou-liran-et-le-hezbollah

    Panique : Netanyahou, l’Iran et le Hezbollah

    A la lumière de la confirmation avec les effets psychologiques et politiques à mesure de la victoire syrienne de Deir ez-Zour, le long commentaire ci-dessous d’Alastair Crooke sur la “panique Netanyahou” prend une singulière importance. Les Syriens d’Assad ont, avec l’aide des Iraniens et surtout du Hezbollah, et le soutien aérien massif de la Russie, emporté une victoire stratégique qui marque évidemment un tournant dans le conflit syrien, et sans doute un tournant décisif. Le concours du Hezbollah dans cette bataille, comme dans la majeure partie du conflit, constitue un élément majeur de ce conflit, et l’une des préoccupations fondamentales de Netanyahou.

    Crooke analyse dans toute son ampleur la très difficile situation du Premier ministre israélien qui (...)

    • Une attaque aérienne israélienne la nuit dernière, contre une position syrienne proche de la frontière libanaise avec des missiles air-sol tirés d’avions israéliens ayant pénétré prudemment l’espace aérien libanais (et pas syrien), signale cette extrême nervosité israélienne, mais sans convaincre de l’efficacité de la chose. Les Israéliens ne sont pas en position de force. Selon plusieurs sources, les Russes tiennent complètement l’espace aérien de la région, notamment avec l’arrivée de cinq avions d’alerte et de contrôle de l’espace aérien à très grandes capacités Beriev A-50 désormais basés en Syrie. D’autre part, DEBKAFiles signale que le Hezbollah devrait être conduit à changer complètement ses tactiques et sa stratégie suite aux victoires remportées en Syrie, ce qui rend complètement caduc le scénario utilisé par les forces armées israéliennes dans des manœuvres en cours pour ttester ses capacités de l’emporter sur le Hezbollah : « In the remaining seven days of the exercise, the IDF still has a chance to update its scenario », écrit ironiquement DEBKAFiles.

    • L’article d’Alaistair Crooke pointé par dedefensa

      The Reasons for Netanyahu’s Panic – Consortiumnews
      https://consortiumnews.com/2017/09/01/the-reasons-for-netanyahus-panic

      The increasingly “not to be” constituency of the Middle East has a simpler word for Netanyahu’s “#ethnic_nationalism.” They call it simply #Western_colonialism. Round one of Chas Freeman’s making the Middle East “be with Israel” consisted of the shock-and-awe assault on Iraq. Iraq is now allied with Iran, and the Hashad militia (PMU) are becoming a widely mobilized fighting force. The second stage was 2006. Today, Hizbullah is a regional force, and not a just Lebanese one.

      The third strike was at Syria. Today, Syria is allied with Russia, Iran, Hizbullah and Iraq. What will comprise the next round in the “to be, or not to be” war?

    • @simplicissimus : Pour aller dans ton sens, le timing israélien est intéressant, juste après le désencerclement de Deir-Ezzor, commepour dire on est là. Et il vient appuyer, si l’on peut dire, le rapport de l’ONU accusant - same player shoots again - la Syrie d’attaque chimique.

    • “Just to be clear: if 2006 marked a key point of inflection, Syria’s “standing its ground” represents a historic turning of much greater magnitude. It should be understood that Saudi Arabia’s (and Britain’s and America’s) tool of fired-up, radical Sunnism has been routed. And with it, the Gulf States, but particularly Saudi Arabia are damaged. The latter has relied on the force of Wahabbism since the first foundation of the kingdom: but Wahabbism in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq has been roundly defeated and discredited (even for most Sunni Muslims). It may well be defeated in Yemen too. This defeat will change the face of Sunni Islam.
      Already, we see the Gulf Cooperation Council, which originally was founded in 1981 by six Gulf tribal leaders for the sole purpose of preserving their hereditary tribal rule in the Peninsula, now warring with each other, in what is likely to be a protracted and bitter internal fight. The “Arab system,” the prolongation of the old Ottoman structures by the complaisant post-World War I victors, Britain and France, seems to be out of its 2013 “remission” (bolstered by the coup in Egypt), and to have resumed its long-term decline.”

    • If Israel did strike Syrian arms facility, it may have shot itself in the foot

      www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.811226

      While Thursday’s alleged attack may have seen Israel widen its definition of what it deems a threat, it may give Iran an excuse to increase its military presence and lead Russia to declare Syrian airspace a no-fly zone

      By Zvi Bar’el | Sep. 7, 2017 | 10:20 PM

      The Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center is the code name for part of the Syrian unconventional weapons industry. The center, better known by its French acronym CERS, is commanded by a Syrian general. It is also responsible for Syria’s chemical weapons manufacturing plants, which are reportedly located in three separate sites: Two near Damascus and the third close to the city of Masyaf, northwest Syria, only about 70 kilometers (43 miles) from the Khmeimim Russian Air Force base near Latakia.

      According to official Syrian reports, Israeli planes attacked CERS from within Lebanese territory early Thursday morning. The reports do not provide details of the damage to the facility and what it made. But an official statement said the attack was meant to raise the morale of Islamic State fighters after they suffered serious casualties in the fighting around Deir ez-Zor. According to President Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria, Israel not only founded ISIS, it also aided in its recent operations.

      It is not completely clear whether this facility, where they manufacture long-range missiles and artillery shells, also continues to assemble chemical weapons shells. But if Israel knows about such production at the plant, then there is no doubt the United States and Russia know about it too.

      We can assume Israel informed Washington before the attack and received the necessary nod of approval. As far as Russia is concerned, meanwhile, it seems Israel decided to attack from within Lebanese territory to avoid the need to coordinate its operation with the Russians – as is required from the understandings between the two air forces whenever Israel sends fighter jets into Syrian territory – and to prevent the information from leaking out.

      This was not the first alleged Israeli aerial attack in Syrian territory, of course. But the timing is quite interesting. It comes after Russia threatened to veto any UN Security Council resolution that describes Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, and a short time after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi – a meeting Netanyahu returned from without any Russian commitment to bring about an Iranian pullback from Syrian lands.

      As Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said, Russia has made a commitment that Israel’s security interests will not be harmed as a result of the establishment of de-escalation zones in Syria.

      But the Russian interpretation of the meaning of harming Israel’s security interests is not necessarily the same as Israel’s definition. Given that the presence of Hezbollah forces in Syria is seen as a threat to Israel, how much more so is the presence of pro-Iranian forces deployed near Israel’s eastern border on the Golan Heights, as well as in the area near Daraa in southern Syria?

      At the same time, Russia – which itself does not define Hezbollah as a terrorist organization – would find it difficult to force the group’s forces out of Lebanon. That’s mainly because of Iran’s position that sees Hezbollah as an essential foundation for preserving its influence in Lebanon and as an important tactical force in the Syrian war. Unlike in Lebanon, where Iran needs Hezbollah to force the hand of the Lebanese government when necessary, Iran’s influence on the Assad regime is direct and in no need of intermediaries.

      Russia, which has acted to limit Iran’s freedom of operation in Syria, recognizes that it must coordinate its actions with Iran if it wishes to fulfill its aspirations to stabilize Assad’s rule.

      The Aleppo lesson

      Russia has already learned its lessons from Aleppo, when it thought it could implement the cease-fire agreement that was reached at the end of last year without coordinating with Iran – and then realized that the Shi’ite militias and Hezbollah were preventing rebel soldiers from boarding the buses that were meant to take them out of the city, on Iran’s orders.

      The Iranian explanation was that because Tehran was not a partner to the agreement, it was not obligated by it. Russia has avoided Syrian negotiations since then, whether local or international, without Iranian participation.

      The attack on the weapons facility, especially one suspected of producing chemical weapons, is seemingly an act that should not cause an aggressive Russian response. Four years ago, Russia convinced then-President Barack Obama at the last minute not to attack Syria for its use of chemical weapons in Aleppo, and in return co-signed a tripartite agreement in which Syria agreed to destroy or send to Russia its entire chemical weapons inventory. Now, Russia may attempt to prove that the facility did not produce such weapons, but it is doubtful it will strain itself too much in doing so.

      By the way, that 2013 agreement included chlorine gas too, which the Syrian army still continues to use.

      Russia also understands that Israel’s alleged attack on the suspected chemical weapons plant, similar to the U.S. cruise missile strikes on Syria after the chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhun in April, is considered to be a legitimate action by the international community.

      Even Russia made it clear back in 2013 that it would not object to an attack on chemical weapons stores if the UN decided on such a step, and if it is proved Syria did use such weapons.

      The new element in the latest attack – if Israel did indeed carry out such an attack – is that Israel now defines what it sees as a threat in a much broader sense.

      The question is whether Russia will accept this definition as part of Israel’s strategic worldview – which sees Syria as a threatening enemy state. Russian agreement to expanding that definition could grant Israel approval for other attacks – such as against Syrian Air Force bases, or even against Syrian ground forces, with the argument that they are considered a threat.

      And so, if until now there was a red line between the Russian and Israeli air forces, this time the attack could lead at the very least to Russia imposing stricter “aerial discipline” on Israel. If this happens, Russia could declare that any foreign planes entering Syrian airspace would be considered a legitimate target for the Russian Air Force, except for coalition planes fighting against the Islamic State.

      Saving the United States

      From Washington’s perspective, Israel has pulled its chestnuts out of the fire. Following numerous reports on the renewed use of chlorine gas by the Syrian army, the Americans would have been forced to act. And this could have caused its relations with Russia to deteriorate even further.

      But the “service” Israel has provided to Washington just sinks it even deeper into the Syrian arena. This time, not only as an interested observer knocking on the doors of the superpowers in order to promote its own security interests, but as an active partner whose military presence adds yet another component to the array of forces (which already includes Russia, Iran, Turkey and Syria).

      But the Israeli element could threaten to spoil Russia’s plans. For example, Iran, Turkey and Russia are about to establish a security zone in the Idlib province, where most of the militia forces of the Al-Shams Front (formerly Nusra Front), which is affiliated with Al-Qaida, are concentrated. This is a region where Iran and Turkey have opposing interests, even though both are interested in a cease-fire.

      Turkey wants to use this region as a strategic base for military operations against the Syrian Kurdish regions that border Turkey. Iran sees Idlib province as a strategic outpost to serve as a base for its control of Syria. All three countries are planning a combined attack against the rebel centers, if Russia is unable to enforce a cease-fire according to the model that was built in the southern provinces.

      It would seem Israel has no real interest in the Idlib province, except for the concern about Iran’s expansion and settling in there. But the takeover of Idlib – like the military campaign in Deir ez-Zor in southeastern Syria, where ISIS continues to rack up losses – is preparing the diplomatic channels for a permanent agreement.

      Russia is striving to demonstrate control of Idlib and Deir ez-Zor by the end of next week, when the representatives of the various parties in the Syrian civil war are set to meet in the Kazakh capital of Astana. The Russians want to present such a takeover as proof of a total victory by the Syrian regime, a victory that would destroy the opposition groups’ tools for applying pressure.

      Syrian-Russian control of these two provinces would strengthen the diplomatic working assumption that Assad will continue to be Syrian president, especially since opponents of his regime in Europe, the United States and Turkey – and even Saudi Arabia – have nearly completely withdrawn their demands to remove him as a precondition to any negotiations.

      Such a result would obligate Israel to be a partner, even if only indirectly, in the process of establishing a new Syrian government; in the debate over the status of Iran and Hezbollah in Syria; and the guarantees that Russia, and not the United States, can provide in response to the possible threats resulting from such an agreement.

      Double-edged sword

      Israel may very well conclude that the greater its military involvement in Syria, whether through sporadic attacks or by tightening its military ties to rebel groups, it more it will strengthen its position when the time comes to formulate a political settlement.

      But such a view can be a double-edged sword. It will grant Iran a wonderful excuse to increase its military presence in Syria; Russia may reduce or even eliminate its aerial coordination with Israel and declare Syrian airspace a no-fly zone; and Hezbollah could turn the Golan Heights into a legitimate front against Israel as part of its balance of deterrence with it.

      There is a big difference between the ability to attack specific targets and a permanent situation of two hostile fronts, one facing Syria and the second Lebanon – especially when Israel’s most important backer, the United States, is sunk deep inside itself and does not want to intervene at all.


  • Dark Signs in the Persian Gulf

    Blog | Graham E. Fuller
    http://grahamefuller.com/blog

    The political and economic assault against Qatar by a Saudi-led coalition so far shows no signs of succeeding in bending Qatar to its will. More seriously, it raises ominous signals for the future of geopolitics in the Arabian Peninsula. That future may have less to do with Iran and more to do with a Saudi Arabia that is demonstrating a newfound aggressive drive towards hegemony in the Arabian Peninsula. 

    Saudi Arabia is now the de facto leader of a counter-revolutionary—one might even say counter-evolutionary—bloc dedicated to quashing any replay of the kind of tumultuous regime change we witnessed in the Arab Spring of 2011. In those events four autocratic regimes bit the dust—Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen—and Syria nearly so. Autocrats of course place top priority on retaining power. 

    More disturbing however, is that Saudi Arabia seems engaged in a long-term process of expanding its authority, and eventually its sovereign control across the Arabian Peninsula in fulfillment of a kind of Wahhabi “Manifest Destiny.”  Saudi Arabia is the chief promoter of narrow and intolerant Wahhabi-Salafi interpretations of Islam from the UK to Indonesia to South Africa. Riyadh does not support terrorism as such, but bankrolls the schools and mosques from which ideological justification for terrorism almost invariably proceeds. Saudi territorial expansion of dominance in the Peninsula will only increase that problem.

    Gulf Arab politics have traditionally been characterized by conservative social mores and cautious autocratic rule that abhors any form of political radicalism—at least at home. Saudi Arabia, as the overwhelmingly largest Gulf state, has long sought to dominate the fringe of small states and shaykhdoms that ring the Peninsula’s coasts—from Oman, in the south, to the federation of small shaykhdoms now under the federal umbrella of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to the north, the island of Bahrain just a few miles off the Saudi coast, and the very small peninsula of independent Qatar attached to the Saudi mainland. Kuwait at the top of the Gulf, too, in principle belongs to this grouping within the Gulf Cooperation Council, but has fairly successfully managed to maintain its distance from Saudi pressures. Impoverished Yemen, with its feisty political culture on the southwest corner of the Peninsula, has for centuries fiercely struggled to fight off Saudi domination and is still doing so.


  • Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington | Why the Trump Administration Should Reconsider Oman

    http://www.agsiw.org/why-the-trump-administration-should-reconsider-oman

    by Sigurd Neubauer and Yoel Guzansky
    Following his historic address to the U.S.-Arab-Islamic Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, U.S. President Donald J. Trump held bilateral talks with every Gulf Cooperation Council leader except for Oman’s deputy prime minister, Sayyid Fahd al-Said, who had his meeting cancelled at the last minute with no public explanation. Oman’s unique foreign policy record – which ranges from facilitating the early U.S.-Iranian contact that eventually led to the nuclear agreement, to its active contribution to the Middle East peace process, to more recently supporting the United Nations-sponsored Yemen peace negotiations – was also ignored altogether during the president’s speech, even though he thanked each of the other GCC countries for their respective commitments to fighting extremism and regional terrorist groups.

    In fact, it may be that the very nature of Oman’s engagement in efforts to defuse regional conflicts has prompted the Trump administration to view it warily, given Washington’s efforts to restore close relations with Saudi Arabia. In this context, Oman’s established links to both Tehran and the political leadership of Yemen’s Houthi insurgents – clearly valued by the administration of former President Barack Obama – may be seen now as reasons to keep Oman at arm’s length. Further evidence that the U.S.-Omani relationship may be heading toward uncertainty came as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson cancelled his meeting in Riyadh with his Omani counterpart, Yusuf bin Alawi. This, coupled with the Trump administration’s Budget Blueprint for fiscal year 2018 – which suggests a 35 percent cut in annual military/security assistance to Oman, down from $5.4 million to $3.5 million – further suggests that Washington is revising its approach toward Muscat.

    The Sultanate of Oman has been a U.S. strategic ally for nearly two centuries, and was the second Arab country, after Morocco, to establish diplomatic relations with Washington, in 1841. Moreover, Oman is only one of two GCC countries to enjoy a free trade agreement with the United States.

    Building on these historic ties, Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Oman, the Arab world’s longest-serving monarch, has skillfully managed throughout his 44-year tenure to serve as a regional intermediary to help defuse tensions between Washington and Tehran, and has at the same time actively contributed to Israeli-Arab dialogue by hosting the Middle East Desalination Research Center (MEDRC), a Muscat-based organization dedicated to sharing Israeli expertise on desalination technologies and clean fresh water supply.

    Given that Trump has pledged to reset U.S.-GCC relations and accelerate the Israeli-Palestinian peace process as part of an apparent strategic effort to counter Tehran’s “malign” regional influence, it is also surprising that Qaboos is the only GCC leader that Trump has yet to call, especially considering Oman is the only GCC country to enjoy pragmatic relationships with Iran and Israel.

    In recent years, Oman used its channels to Tehran – and to the Houthis in Yemen – to gain the release of a half dozen U.S. citizens who had been detained, efforts that earned Oman public expressions of thanks from Obama.

    In addition, “Oman recognizes that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an irritant between the U.S. and the Arab world, but – consistent with Qaboos’ philosophy of peaceful coexistence and conflict resolution – he wanted to play a constructive role,” said Richard Schmierer, former U.S. ambassador to Oman, adding that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was not a top issue on the U.S.-Omani bilateral agenda during his tenure in Muscat.

    Nonetheless, in 2010 U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton hailed MEDRC as “a model for Middle East peace making.” A year later, it was revealed that Obama personally called Qaboos to ask him to lead Arab goodwill gestures toward Israel in exchange for a settlement freeze moratorium.

    A Long History of Support for Mideast Peace

    Following the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, Oman was the only GCC member to consistently engage with Israel through a number of informal diplomatic initiatives. Oman was also one of only three Arab League members not to boycott Egypt after its peace treaty with Israel while actively supporting Jordanian-Israeli peace talks in the ensuing years.

    Qaboos demonstrated his commitment to reaching a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace treaty by inviting Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to visit him in Muscat in 1994. Rabin’s visit came only months after Israel and Jordan signed a comprehensive peace treaty. Although Rabin’s landmark visit was initially conducted in secrecy, it was announced publicly upon his return to Israel.

    Though falling short of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s historic Knesset address in 1977 and the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty of 1994, Qaboos granted Rabin and the Israeli leadership what it had strived for since the inception of the Jewish state in 1948: recognition and legitimacy. Moreover, Qaboos’ invitation arguably signaled publicly to Rabin, the Israeli public, and the Arab world at large a willingness to distance Oman from the Saudi position by granting Israel de facto recognition.

    Following the assassination of Rabin, Qaboos once again displayed his commitment to the peace process by dispatching Oman’s foreign minister to attend Rabin’s funeral. In a subsequent interview with Israeli media, Alawi said, while being hosted by acting Prime Minister Shimon Peres, “Oman will soon have diplomatic relations with Israel, Oman was never in a state of war with Israel so there is no need for a peace agreement.”

    The brief relationship between Qaboos, Rabin, and Peres has had concrete and positive outcomes: Oman has maintained a diplomatic channel with Israel since 1996 by hosting MEDRC. MEDRC is the only surviving organization of five regional initiatives included in the Oslo Accords as part of an effort to accelerate the peace process. Through it, participants from Gaza, Jordan, and the West Bank have attended, with Israeli counterparts, a number of courses on desalination and wastewater management in Tel Aviv.

    On the surface, Oman’s quiet diplomatic style of doing business appears to be by design: By maintaining a policy of neutrality and noninterference, Oman seeks to preserve its independence and stability by closely aligning with Britain and the United States while balancing relations with its powerful neighbors, Iran and Saudi Arabia. The Israeli-Palestinian angle, however, does not fit into Oman’s immediate strategic concerns; unlike Iran, with whom it shares the Strait of Hormuz, Israel is a distant power.

    Given Trump’s quest to forge a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace agreement, Oman could potentially again play a pivotal role through its MEDRC networks. A White House invitation to Oman’s newly-appointed deputy prime minister for international cooperation, Sayyid Assad bin Tariq al-Said, might provide an opportunity to explore this potential with the man who appears to be in line to become Qaboos’ eventual successor. And, unlikely as it would seem at the moment given Trump’s strident anti-Iran rhetoric, Oman could also reprise its role as a conduit for quiet messaging between Tehran and Washington on regional security issues as part of an effort to mitigate the risk of conflict.

    While the last U.S. president to visit Oman was Bill Clinton in 2000, the administration of George W. Bush dispatched vice president Dick Cheney to Muscat in 2002, 2005, and 2006 to discuss Iran and other regional issues. More recently, the Obama administration and its secretary of state, John Kerry, in particular, came to rely on Muscat on a host of regional initiatives ranging from Iran, Syria, and Yemen. In fact, Kerry grew so appreciative of Oman’s effective diplomacy that he attended Oman’s national day celebration in 2016, a most unusual public gesture for a secretary of state. Whether Oman regains this coveted position in the eyes of the current administration remains to be seen, although its unique contributions in support of efforts to resolve some of the Middle East’s most intractable problems would at the very least argue for open channels of communication.

    Sigurd Neubauer is a non-resident fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. Yoel Guzansky is a research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, a National Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, and a 2016–17 Israel Institute postdoctoral fellow.


  • Saudi Media: Muslim Leaders Invited to Summit with Trump — Naharnet

    http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/229820

    King Abdullah II of Jordan, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Niger’s Mahamadou Issoufou are among leaders invited by Saudi King Salman for a summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.

    The Arab-Islamic-American Summit will be among a series of talks expected to be held in Riyadh on May 20-21, Saudi officials said.

    Trump has frequently been accused of fueling Islamophobia but aides described his decision to visit Saudi Arabia as an effort to reset relations with the Muslim world.

    There will also be a separate meeting between monarchs of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council and Trump, as well as bilateral talks between the Saudi and U.S. leaders, Riyadh’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir has said.

    In addition to heads of state from Jordan, Algeria and Niger, the official Saudi Press Agency reported that Salman asked Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi and Morocco’s King Mohammed VI to attend.

    The leaders of Turkey, Pakistan, Iraq and Tunisia have also received invitations, the Arab News daily reported on Wednesday.


  • Immigration Detention in the Gulf:

    Labour migrants are a backbone of the economies of all the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council—#Bahrain, #Kuwait, #Oman, #Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. While much has been reported on the abuses these workers often suffer, very little is known about what happens to them when they are arrested and detained. This GDP Special Report helps fill this gap. Based on a two-year investigation, this report shows that while all the Gulf states provide constitutional guarantees against arbitrary or unlawful arrest and imprisonment, they all make widespread use of forms of immigration-related detention for the purposes of punishing or deporting foreigners, often in situations that may be considered arbitrary or otherwise contrary to human rights norms. Read report.

    http://www.globaldetentionproject.org/publications/special-reports/immigration-detention-in-the-gulf.html
    #pays_du_golfe #travail #exploitation #détention_administrative #détention #Arabie_Saoudite


  • War & Peace Over Lunch
    http://www.aucegypt.edu/GAPP/CairoReview/Pages/articleDetails.aspx?aid=879

    I d[o] not agree with the primacy of a Saudi- and Iranian-led regional confrontation that has been heavily promoted by many people in the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and therefore by extension by most of the Arab and global media [...]

    A more complete explanation of the battered Arab region today must include accounting for several other mega-tends: the impact of the last twenty-fix years of non-stop American military attacks, threats and sanctions from Libya to Afghanistan; the radicalizing impact of sixty-seven years of non-stop Zionist colonization and militarism against Palestinians, Lebanese, Syrians and other Arabs; the hollowing out of Arab economic and governance systems by three generations of military-led, amateurish and corruption-riddled mismanaged governance that deprived citizens of their civic and political rights and pushed them to assert instead the primacy of their sectarian and tribal identities; and, the catalytic force of the 2003 Anglo-American led war on Iraq that opened the door for all these forces and others yet — like lack of water, jobs, and electricity that make normal daily life increasingly difficult — to combine into the current situation of widespread national polarization and violence.

    #Moyen-Orient #manipulation #médias #Etats-Unis #causes #effets


  • Kuwait withdraws passports from terror suspects | GulfNews.com
    http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/kuwait/kuwait-withdraws-passports-from-terror-suspects-1.1557301

    Kuwait’s interior ministry has withdrawn the passports of supporters of terror group Daesh.

    The “precautionary measure” seeks to ensure the sympathisers do not engage in evil acts or reckless behaviour that would harm Kuwait, security sources told Kuwaiti daily Al Anba.

    “We cannot detain them without legal grounds, but we did summon them and informed them very clearly that we were fully aware of their tendencies and orientations,” the sources said.

    The state top security agency also warned the sympathisers they were under constant monitoring and that their movements and contacts were being closely watched, the sources added.

    “We are applying a zero tolerance policy towards anyone who is involved in any act of terror and under any form, be it through direct support, plotting, scheming, or harbouring suspects,” the security agency told the sympathisers.

    Non-Kuwaitis, including Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) citizens, will be deported to their home countries alongside full reports under the legal article of “Public Interest” along with full report about their orientations and activities, the sources said.

    According to the daily, the close cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait on security matters has been strengthened recently.


  • Immigration au #Qatar : la #kafala toujours en place malgré les promesses

    L’ONG Amnesty International publie ce jeudi un rapport pour rappeler au Qatar qu’il n’a pas tenu ses promesses en matière d’amélioration des droits des ouvriers, et notamment la réforme de la Kafala, ce système qui met tout employé à la merci de son employeur pour changer de travail, sortir du territoire…Une réforme annoncée il y a un an et qui n’a pas eu lieu.

    http://www.rfi.fr/moyen-orient/20150521-immigration-qatar-kafala-rapport-amnesty-travailleurs-migrants
    #migration #travail #exploitation

    • Will Migrant Domestic Workers in the Gulf Ever Be Safe From Abuse?

      Jahanara* had had enough. For a year, the Bangladeshi cook had been working 12 to 16 hours a day, eating only leftovers and sleeping on the kitchen floor of her employer’s Abu Dhabi home – all for half the salary she had been promised. She had to prepare four fresh meals a day for the eight-member family, who gave her little rest. She was tired, she had no phone and she was alone. So, in the summer of 2014, in the middle of the night after a long day’s work, she snuck out into the driveway, scaled the front gate and escaped.

      Jahanara ran along the road in the dark. She did not know where she was going. Eventually, a Pakistani taxi driver pulled over, and asked her if she had run away from her employer, and whether she needed help. She admitted she had no money, and no clue where she wanted to go. The driver gave her a ride, dropping her off in the neighboring emirate of Dubai, in the Deira neighborhood. There, he introduced her to Vijaya, an Indian woman in her late fifties who had been working in the Gulf for more than two decades.

      “It’s like I found family here in this strange land.”

      Vijaya gave the nervous young woman a meal of rice, dal and, as Jahanara still recalls, “a beautiful fish fry.” She arranged for Jahanara to rent half a room in her apartment and, within a week, had found her part-time housekeeping work in the homes of two expat families.

      Jahanara is a 31-year-old single woman from north Bangladesh, and Vijaya, 60, is a grandmother of eight from Mumbai, India. Jahanara speaks Bengali, while Vijaya speaks Telugu. Despite the differences in age and background, the two women have become close friends. They communicate in gestures and broken Urdu.

      “It’s like I found family here in this strange land,” Jahanara says.

      The younger woman now cleans four houses a day, and cooks dinner for a fifth, while the older woman works as a masseuse, giving traditional oil massages to mothers and babies.

      Jahanara’s experience in #Abu_Dhabi was not the first time she had been exploited as a domestic worker in the Gulf. She originally left Bangladesh six years ago, and has been home only once since then, when she ran away from abusive employers in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and the police deported her. She had no choice – under the much-criticized kafala system for legally employing migrant workers, a domestic worker is attached to a particular household that sponsors their visa. Employers often keep the worker’s passport to prevent their leaving, although this is illegal in most Gulf countries today.

      Under kafala, quitting a bad boss means losing your passport and vital work visa, and potentially being arrested or deported. This is why, the second time, Jahanara escaped in the dead of night. Now, she works outside official channels.

      “You earn at least three times more if you’re ‘khalli walli,’” Vijaya says, using a colloquial Arabic term for undocumented or freelance migrant workers. The name loosely translates as “take it or leave it.”

      “You get to sleep in your own house, you get paid on time and if your employer misbehaves, you can find a new one,” she says.

      “The Gulf needs us, but like a bad husband, it also exploits us.”

      Ever year, driven by poverty, family pressure, conflict or natural disasters back home, millions of women, mainly from developing countries, get on flights to the Gulf with their fingers crossed that they won’t be abused when they get there.

      It’s a dangerous trade-off, but one that can work out for some. When Jahanara and Vijaya describe their lives, the two women repeatedly weigh the possibility of financial empowerment against inadequate wages, routine abuse and vulnerability.

      By working for 23 years in Dubai and Muscat in Oman, Vijaya has funded the education of her three children, the construction of a house for her son in a Mumbai slum and the weddings of two daughters. She is overworked and underpaid, but she says that’s “normal.” As she sees it, it’s all part of working on the margins of one of the world’s most successful economies.

      “The Gulf needs us,” Vijaya says. “But like a bad husband, it also exploits us.”

      The International Labour Organization (ILO) reports that there are 11.5 million migrant domestic workers around the world – 73 percent of them are women. In 2016, there were 3.77 million domestic workers in Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

      In a single household in these states, it’s common to find several domestic workers employed to do everything from cleaning and cooking, to guarding the home and tutoring the children.

      Unlike other sectors, the demand for domestic workers has been resilient to economic downturns. Estimated to be one of the world’s largest employers of domestic workers, Saudi Arabia hosts around 2.42 million. The majority of these workers (733,000) entered the country between 2016 and 2017, during its fiscal deficit. In 2017, domestic workers comprised a full 22 percent of Kuwait’s working age population. Oman has seen a threefold explosion in its domestic work sector since 2008. Overall, the GCC’s migrant domestic work sector has been growing at an annual average of 8.7 percent for the past decade.

      That growth is partly fueled by the increasing numbers of women entering the workforce. The percentage of Saudi Arabia’s adult female population in the formal labor force has risen from 18 percent to 22 percent over the past decade. In Qatar, the figure has jumped from 49 percent to 58 percent. And as more women go to work, there’s a growing need for others to take over the child and elderly care in their households. Experts call this transfer of care work from unpaid family members to paid workers from other countries the “global care chain.”

      A 2017 report, which examined the effect of changing demographics in the Gulf, found that dramatically decreased fertility – thanks to improved female education and later marriages – and greater numbers of the dependent elderly have resulted in an “increased trend for labour participation of ‘traditional’ informal care givers (usually women).”

      The enduring use of migrant domestic workers in the region is also a result of local traditions. For example, while Saudi Arabia was still the only country in the world that banned women from driving, there was a consistent need for male personal drivers, many coming from abroad. The ban was lifted in June 2018, but the demand for drivers is still high because many women don’t yet have licenses.

      “Without domestic workers, societies could not function here,” says Mohammed Abu Baker, a lawyer in Abu Dhabi and a UAE national. “I was brought up by many Indian nannies, at a time when Indians were our primary migrants. Now, I have a Pakistani driver, an Indonesian cook, an Indian cleaner, a Filipino home nurse and a Sri Lankan nanny. None of them speak Arabic, and they can hardly speak to each other, but they run my household like a well-oiled machine.”

      There is also demand from expatriate families, with dual wage earners looking for professional cleaning services, part-time cooks and full-time childcare workers.

      “When I came from Seattle with my husband, we were determined not to hire servants,” says Laura, a 35-year-old teacher in an American primary school in Abu Dhabi. “But after we got pregnant, and I got my teaching job, we had to get full-time help.”

      “My American guilt about hiring house help disappeared in months!” she says, as her Sri Lankan cook Frida quietly passes around home-baked cookies. “It is impossible to imagine these conveniences back home, at this price.”

      Laura says she pays minimum wage, and funds Frida’s medical insurance – “all as per law.” But she also knows that conveniences for women like her often come at a cost paid by women like Frida. As part of her local church’s “good Samaritan group” – as social workers must call themselves to avoid government scrutiny – Laura has helped fundraise medical and legal expenses for at least 40 abused migrant workers over the past two years.

      Living isolated in a house with limited mobility and no community, many domestic workers, especially women, are vulnerable to abuse. Afraid to lose their right to work, employees can endure a lot before running away, including serious sexual assault. Legal provisions do exist – in many countries, workers can file a criminal complaint against their employers, or approach labor courts for help. But often they are unaware of, or unable to access, the existing labor protections and resources.

      “I never believed the horror stories before, but when you meet woman after woman with bruises or unpaid wages, you start understanding that the same system that makes my life easier is actually broken,” Laura says.

      In 2007, Jayatri* made one of the hardest decisions of her life. She left her two young children at home in Sri Lanka, while the country was at war, to be with another family in Saudi Arabia.

      It was near the end of Sri Lanka’s protracted civil war and 22-year-old Jayatri had been struggling to support her family since her husband’s death in the war two years earlier. The 26-year conflict claimed the lives of tens of thousands of fathers, husbands, sons and brothers, forcing many Tamil women to take on the role of sole breadwinner for their families. But there are few job opportunities for women in a culture that still largely believes their place is in the home. Women who are single or widowed already face stigma, which only gets worse if they also try to find paying work in Sri Lanka.

      S. Senthurajah, executive director of SOND, an organization that raises awareness about safe migration, says that as a result, an increasing number of women are migrating from Sri Lanka to the Gulf. More than 160,000 Sri Lankan women leave home annually to work in other countries, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Malaysia, according to the International Organization for Migration.

      Senthurajah says recruitment agencies specifically target vulnerable female heads of households: widows, single and divorced women and women whose husbands are disabled or otherwise unable to work to support the family. Women like Jayatri.

      When a local recruitment agency approached her and offered her a job as a domestic worker in the Gulf, it was an opportunity she felt she couldn’t turn down. She traveled from Vavuniya, a town in the island’s north – which was then under the control of Tamil Tiger rebels – to Colombo, to undergo a few weeks of housekeeping training.

      She left her young children, a boy and a girl, with her mother. When she eventually arrived in Saudi Arabia, her passport was taken by the local recruitment agency and she was driven to her new home where there were 15 children to look after. From the start, she was abused.

      “I spent five months in that house being tortured, hit and with no proper food and no salary. I worked from 5 a.m. to midnight every day,” she says, not wanting to divulge any more details about how she was treated.

      “I just wanted to go home.”

      Jayatri complained repeatedly to the recruitment agency, who insisted that she’d signed a contract for two years and that there was no way out. She was eventually transferred to another home, but the situation there was just as bad: She worked 18 hours a day and was abused, again.

      “It was like jail,” she says.

      “I spent five months in that house being tortured, hit and with no proper food and no salary. I worked from 5 a.m. to midnight every day.”

      In 2009, Jayatri arrived back in northern Sri Lanka with nothing to show for what she had endured in Saudi Arabia. She was never paid for either job. She now works as a housemaid in Vavuniya earning $60 per month. It’s not enough.

      “This is the only opportunity I have,” she says. “There’s no support. There are so many difficulties here.”

      Jayatri’s traumatic time in Saudi Arabia is one of many stories of abuse that have come out of the country in recent years. While there are no reliable statistics on the number of migrant domestic workers who suffer abuse at the hands of their employers, Human Rights Watch says that each year the Saudi Ministry of Social Affairs and the embassies of source countries shelter thousands of domestic workers with complaints against their employers or recruiters.

      Excessive workload and unpaid wages are the most common complaints. But employers largely act with impunity, Senthurajah says.

      “It’s like a human slave sale,” Ravindra De Silva, cofounder of AFRIEL, an organization that works with returnee migrant workers in northern Sri Lanka, tells News Deeply.

      “Recruitment agencies have agents in different regions of the country and through those agents, they collect women as a group and send them. The agents know which families [to] pick easily – widows and those with financial difficulties,” he says.

      In 2016, a man turned up at Meera’s* mud-brick home on the outskirts of Jaffna, the capital of Sri Lanka’s Northern Province, offering her a job in the Gulf.

      “They told me I could earn well if I went abroad and that they could help me to look after my family,” she says.

      Within a few months of arriving in Saudi Arabia, Meera, 42, couldn’t keep up with the long hours and strenuous housework. She cooked and cleaned for 12 family members and rarely got a break.

      Her employer then became abusive.

      “He started beating me and put acid in my eyes,” she says. He also sexually assaulted her.

      But she endured the attacks and mistreatment, holding on to the hope of making enough money to secure her family’s future. After eight months, she went back home. She was never paid.

      Now Meera makes ends meet by working as a day laborer. “The agency keeps coming back, telling me how poor we are and that I should go back [to Saudi Arabia] for my children,” she says.

      “I’ll never go back again. I got nothing from it, [except] now I can’t see properly because of the acid in my eyes.”

      While thousands of women travel to a foreign country for work and end up exploited and abused, there are also those who make the journey and find what they were looking for: opportunity and self-reliance. Every day, more than 1,500 Nepalis leave the country for employment abroad, primarily in Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, India and Malaysia. Of the estimated 2.5 million Nepalis working overseas, about 11 percent are female.

      Many women from South Asian countries who work in the Gulf send remittances home that are used to improve their family’s socio-economic status, covering the cost of education, health care, food and housing. In addition to financial remittances, the social remittances of female migrants in terms of skills, attitudes, ideas and knowledge can also have wide-ranging benefits, including contributing to economic development and gender equality back home.

      Kunan Gurung, project coordinator at Pourakhi Nepal, an organization focused on supporting female returnee migrants, says those who have “successful” migration journeys are often able to use their experiences abroad to challenge gender norms.

      “Our society is patriarchal and male-dominated, but the boundaries expand for women who return from the Gulf successfully because they have money and thus some power,” he says.

      “The women have left their village, taken a plane and have lived in the developed world. Such experiences leave them feeling empowered.”

      Gurung says many returning migrant workers invest their savings in their own businesses, from tailoring to chicken farms. But it can be difficult, because women often find that the skills they earned while working abroad can’t help them make money back home. To counter this, Pourakhi trains women in entrepreneurship to not only try to limit re-migration and keep families together but also to ensure women are equipped with tangible skills in the context of life in Nepal.

      But for the women in Nepal who, like Jayatri in Sri Lanka, return without having earned any money, deep-rooted stigma can block their chances to work and separate them from their families. Women who come home with nothing are looked at with suspicion and accused of being sexually active, Gurung says.

      “The reality is that women are not looked after in the Gulf, in most cases,” he says.

      In Kathmandu, Pourakhi runs an emergency shelter for returning female migrants. Every evening, staff wait at Kathmandu airport for flights landing from the Gulf. They approach returning migrants – women who stand out because of their conservative clothes and “the look on their faces” – and offer shelter, food and support.

      Of the 2,000 women they have housed over the last nine years, 42 have returned pregnant and 21 with children.

      “There are so many problems returnee migrants face. Most women don’t have contact with their families because their employer didn’t pay, or they have health issues or they’re pregnant,” says Krishna Gurung (no relation to Kunan), Pourakhi’s shelter manager.

      “They don’t reintegrate with their families. Their families don’t accept them.” Which could be the biggest tragedy of all. Because the chance to make life better for their families is what drives so many women to leave home in the first place.

      Realizing how crucial their workers are to the Gulf economies, major labor-sending countries such as Nepal, Bangladesh, India and the Philippines have been using both pressure and dialogue to improve conditions for their citizens.

      Over recent years, they have instituted a wide array of bans and restrictions, often linked to particularly horrifying cases of abuse. Nepal has banned women from working in the Gulf in 2016; the same year, India disallowed women under 30 from migrating to the Gulf. In 2013, Sri Lanka temporarily banned women from leaving the country for domestic work, citing abuse abroad and neglected families at home, and now requires a family background report before women can travel.

      The most high-profile diplomatic dispute over domestic workers unfolded between the Philippines and Kuwait this year. In January, the Philippines banned workers from going to Kuwait, and made the ban “permanent” in February after a 29-year-old Filipino maid, Joanna Demafelis, was found dead in a freezer in her employers’ abandoned apartment in Kuwait City.

      “Bans provide some political leverage for the sending country.”

      At the time, the Philippines’ firebrand president, Rodrigo Duterte, said he would “sell my soul to the devil” to get his citizens home from Kuwait to live comfortably back home. Thousands of Filipino citizens were repatriated through a voluntary return scheme in the first half of 2018, while Kuwait made overtures to Ethiopia to recruit more maids to replace the lost labor force. Duterte’s ban was eventually lifted in May, after Kuwait agreed to reform its migrant work sector, ending the seizure of passports and phones, and instituting a 24-hour hotline for abused workers.

      It’s well established that bans do not stop women from traveling to the Gulf to become domestic workers. Bandana Pattanaik, the international coordinator of the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, has criticized bans as being “patriarchal, limiting to female agency and also ending up encouraging illegal human smuggling.”

      But others point out that the international pressure generated by travel bans has had some effect, as in the case with the Philippines and Kuwait. “Bans provide some political leverage for the sending country,” says Kathmandu-based researcher Upasana Khadka. “But bans do not work as permanent solutions.”
      ATTEMPTS AT REFORM

      Today, after decades of criticism and campaigning around labor rights violations, the Gulf is seeing a slow shift toward building better policies for domestic workers.

      “In the past five years, five of the six GCC countries have started to adopt laws for the protection of migrant domestic workers for the very first time,” says Rothna Begum, women’s rights researcher for Middle East and North Africa at Human Rights Watch.

      “The GCC countries have long cultivated the image of being luxurious economies meant for the good life,” Begum says. “This image is hard to maintain as labor exploitation comes to light. So, while they try to shut the reporting down, they have also been forced to address some of the issues raised by their critics.”

      Legal and institutional reforms have been announced in the domestic work sector in all GCC countries except Oman. These regulate and standardize contracts, mandate better living conditions, formalize recruitment, and plan rehabilitation and legal redress for abused workers.

      This gradual reform is due to international pressure and monitoring by human rights groups and international worker unions. After the 2014 crash in the oil economy, the sudden need for foreign investment exposed the GCC and the multinational companies doing business there to more global scrutiny.

      Countries in the Gulf are also hoping that the new national policies will attract more professional and skilled home workers. “Domestic work is a corrupt, messy sector. The host countries are trying to make it more professional,” says M. Bheem Reddy, vice president of the Hyderabad-based Migrant Rights Council, which engages with women workers from the southern districts of India.

      Many of the Gulf states are moving toward nationalization – creating more space for their own citizens in the private sector – this means they also want to regulate one of the fastest growing job sectors in the region. “This starts with dignity and proper pay for the existing migrant workers,” Reddy says.

      There have been attempts to develop a regional standard for domestic labor rights, with little success. In 2011, the ILO set standards on decent work and minimum protection through the landmark Domestic Workers Convention. All the GCC countries adopted the Convention, but none have ratified it, which means the rules are not binding.

      Instead, each Gulf country has taken its own steps to try to protect household workers who come from abroad.

      After reports of forced labor in the lead-up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Qatar faced a formal inquiry by the ILO if it didn’t put in place migrant labor protections. Under that pressure, in 2017, the country passed a law on domestic work. The law stipulates free health care, a regular monthly salary, maximum 10-hour work days, and three weeks’ severance pay. Later, it set a temporary minimum wage for migrant workers, at $200 a month.

      The UAE’s new reforms are motivated by the Gulf crisis – which has seen Qatar blockaded by its neighbors – as well as a desire to be seen as one of the more progressive GCC countries. The UAE had a draft law on domestic work since 2012, but only passed it in 2017, after Kuwait published its own law. The royal decree gives household workers a regular weekly day off, daily rest of at least 12 hours, access to a mobile phone, 30 days paid annual leave and the right to retain personal documents like passports. Most importantly, it has moved domestic work from the purview of the interior ministry to the labor ministry – a long-standing demand from rights advocates.

      The UAE has also become the first Gulf country to allow inspectors access to a household after securing a warrant from the prosecutor. This process would be triggered by a worker’s distress call or complaint, but it’s unclear if regular state inspections will also occur. Before this law, says Begum, the biggest obstacle to enforcing labor protection in domestic work was the inability for authorities to monitor the workspace of a cleaner or cook, because it is a private home, unlike a hotel or a construction site.

      The UAE has not followed Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia in stipulating a minimum wage for domestic workers. But it has issued licenses for 40 Tadbeer Service Centers, which will replace recruitment agencies by the end of the year. Employers in the UAE will have to submit their requests for workers through these centers, which are run by private licensed agents but supervised by the Ministry of Human Resources. Each of the centers has accommodation for workers and can also sponsor their visas, freeing them up to take on part-time jobs while also catering to growing demand from UAE nationals and expats for legal part-timers.

      “You focus on the success stories you hear, and hope you’ll have that luck.”

      B. L. Surendranath, general secretary of the Immigration Protection Center in Hyderabad, India, visited some of these centers in Dubai earlier this year, on the invitation of the UAE human resources ministry. “I was pleasantly surprised at the well-thought-out ideas at the model Tadbeer Center,” he says. “Half the conflicts [between employer and worker] are because of miscommunication, which the center will sort out through conflict resolution counselors.”

      Saudi Arabia passed a labor law in 2015, but it didn’t extend to domestic work. Now, as unemployment among its nationals touches a high of 12.8 percent, its efforts to create more jobs include regulating the migrant workforce. The Saudi government has launched an electronic platform called Musaned to directly hire migrant domestic workers, cutting out recruitment agencies altogether. Women migrant workers will soon live in dormitories and hostels run by labor supply agencies, not the homes of their employers. The labor ministry has also launched a multi-language hotline for domestic workers to lodge complaints.

      Dhaka-based migrant rights activist Shakirul Islam, from Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Programme, welcomes these changes, but remains circumspect. “Most women who return to Bangladesh from Saudi [Arabia] say that the revised laws have no impact on their lives,” he says. “My understanding is that the employers are not aware of the law on the one hand, and on the other, do not care about it.”

      Migrant rights activists, ILO officials, the governments of source countries and workers themselves are cautiously optimistic about the progressive direction of reforms in the Gulf. “But it is clear that none of the laws penalize employers of domestic workers for labor rights violations,” says Islam.

      Rights activists and reports from the ILO, U.N. and migrants’ rights forums have for decades repeated that full protection of domestic workers is impossible as long as GCC countries continue to have some form of the kafala sponsorship system.

      Saudi Arabia continues to require workers to secure an exit permit from their employers if they want to leave the country, while Qatar’s 2015 law to replace the kafala sponsorship system does not extend to domestic workers. Reddy of the Migrant Rights Council says the UAE’s attempt to tackle kafala by allowing Tadbeer Center agents to sponsor visas does not make agents accountable if they repeatedly send different workers to the same abusive employer.

      For now, it seems the women working on the margins of some of the richest economies in the world will remain vulnerable to abuse and exploitation from their employers. And as long as opportunities exist for them in the Gulf that they can’t find at home, thousands will come to fulfil the demand for domestic and care work, knowing they could be risking everything for little or no return.

      Jahanara says the only thing for women in her position to do is to take the chance and hope for the best.

      “You focus on the success stories you hear, and hope you’ll have that luck.”


      https://www.newsdeeply.com/refugees/articles/2018/08/31/will-migrant-domestic-workers-in-the-gulf-ever-be-safe-from-abuse-2

      #travail_domestique #migrations #pays_du_golfe


  • King Salman of Saudi Arabia pulls out of US talks on Iran
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/11/king-salman-saudi-arabia-pulls-out-us-talks-iran

    King Salman of Saudi Arabia has withdrawn from a carefully orchestrated summit with the US that President Barack Obama hoped would assuage Gulf anxieties about the conclusion of a nuclear agreement with Iran.

    The monarch had been expected to join other heads of state from the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries at an unprecedented meeting at the White House and a day of talks at the presidential retreat at Camp David. Now the only leaders attending will be the emirs of Qatar and Kuwait.


  • Yemen at War - International Crisis Group
    http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/middle-east-north-africa/iraq-iran-gulf/yemen/b045-yemen-at-war.aspx

    emen is at war. The country is now divided between the Huthi movement, which controls the north and is rapidly advancing south, and the anti-Huthi coalition backed by Western and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) allies that President Abdo Robo Mansour Hadi is cobbling together. On 25 March, the Huthis captured a strategic military base north of the port city of Aden and took the defence minister hostage. That evening Saudi Arabia launched a military campaign, in coordination with nine other, mostly Arab states, to stop the Huthi advance and restore his government. Hadi left for Riyadh and will attend an Arab League summit on 28 March. No major party seems truly to want to halt what threatens to become a regional war. The slim chance to salvage a political process requires that regional actors immediately cease military action and help the domestic parties agree on a broadly acceptable president or presidential council. Only then can Yemenis return to the political negotiating table to address other outstanding issues.
    The political transition, in trouble for some time, began to unravel in September 2014, when Huthi fighters captured Sanaa, toppling the widely unpopular transitional government. Neither President Hadi nor the Huthis (a predominantly Zaydi/Shiite group, also known as Ansar Allah) honoured the soon concluded peace deal. In January, conflict over a draft constitution led the Huthis to consolidate control in the capital, precipitating the 22 January resignation of the prime minister and president; the latter subsequently fled to Aden.

    The Huthi-Hadi divide is the most explosive, but it is not the only conflict. Tensions are also unsettling the recent marriage of convenience between the Huthis and former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who, after being deposed in 2011, has taken advantage of popular dissatisfaction and tacitly allied himself with the Huthis against their common enemies to stage a political comeback through his party, the General People’s Congress (GPC), and possibly his son, Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh. Divisions in the south, which was an independent state prior to its 1990 union with the north, are rampant as well. Southern separatists are internally split and suspicious of Hadi, a southerner who supports continued unity with the north. Then there are al-Qaeda and a nascent Islamic State (IS) movement, both determined to fight the Huthis and take advantage of the state’s collapse to claim territory.

    This combustible brew has overwhelmed the UN-led negotiations in Sanaa, a legacy of the 2011 GCC initiative and its implementation mechanisms. Initially, the political process was promising: it removed Saleh and facilitated a ten-month National Dialogue Conference (NDC) that reached constructive conclusions on the political future. But after three years, stakeholders have little confidence UN-sponsored talks alone will overcome the impasse or produce a lasting settlement.

    GCC countries have lost faith as well and are increasingly committed to reversing Huthi gains at virtually any cost. Saudi Arabia considers the Huthis Iranian proxies, a stance that pushes them closer to Tehran. Throwing their weight behind Hadi, the Saudis moved their embassy to Aden and reportedly bankroll anti-Huthi tribal mobilisation in the central governorate of Marib and the south. They lead efforts to isolate the Huthis diplomatically, strangle them economically and, now, weaken them militarily. In turn, the Huthis denounce Hadi as illegitimate and offer $100,000 for his capture. They have conducted military exercises on the Saudi border and likely will harden their position in response to Saudi military intervention. They are less dependent on Tehran than Hadi and his allies are on Riyadh, but on today’s trajectory, their relative self-sufficiency will not last long. They are already soliciting Iranian financial and political support.

    More than others, the GCC had the financial clout and historical ties with Yemeni stakeholders to incentivise compromise, but it ramped up pressure while pinching off the safety valve. In March, when Hadi asked Riyadh to host GCC-brokered talks, it accepted and set impossible preconditions for the Huthis: to recognise Hadi as president and withdraw all fighters from Sanaa. The Huthis and Saleh’s GPC, which the Saudis partially blame for Huthi advances, refuse to move talks from Sanaa, insisting that the UN continue its mediation there.

    Egged on by regional powerhouses Saudi Arabia and Iran, Yemenis may not be able to avoid a prolonged war. If they are to, the GCC should step back from the military path and harmonise diplomatic efforts with the UN, which still has a critical role in facilitating compromise. The UN Security Council ideally would condemn regional military involvement in Yemen and at a minimum should refrain from endorsing and promoting it.

    The immediate priority should be a UN Security Council brokered and monitored ceasefire, followed by UN-led peace talks with GCC backing, without preconditions, focusing on the presidency and leaving other power-sharing topics until basic agreement is reached on a single president with one or multiple vice presidents or a presidential council. Agreement on the executive would enable further talk on other aspects of pre-election power sharing in the government and military, and on state structure, particularly the future of the south, where separatist sentiment is strong. Both have been core drivers of conflict since the NDC ended in January 2014.

    Without minimum consensus within and beyond its borders, Yemen is headed for protracted violence on multiple fronts. This combination of proxy wars, sectarian violence, state collapse and militia rule has become sadly familiar in the region. Nobody is likely to win such a fight, which will only benefit those who prosper in the chaos of war, such as al-Qaeda and IS. But great human suffering would be certain. An alternative exists, but only if Yemenis and their neighbours choose it.
    Sanaa/Brussels, 27 March 2015


  • Diplomatic Activity Portends “Coup” in Saudi Foreign Relations
    http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/diplomatic-activity-portends-coup%E2%80%9D-saudi-foreign-relation

    Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Abdullatif al-Zayani attends an extraordinary GCC meeting of foreign ministers, on February 14, 2015, in the Saudi capital #Riyadh. AFP/Fayez Nureldine Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Abdullatif al-Zayani attends an extraordinary GCC meeting of foreign ministers, on February 14, 2015, in the Saudi capital Riyadh. AFP/Fayez Nureldine

    Riyadh has seen a flurry of diplomatic activity from the Gulf in the past few days amid talk of changes in Saudi foreign policy under #King_Salman_bin_Abdulaziz. The new policy would be geared toward establishing a Sunni alliance against Iran and mending fences with #turkey, #Qatar, and the #Muslim_Brotherhood. After (...)

    #Mideast_&_North_Africa #Ankara #Ansarullah #Articles #Egypt #Kuwait #Mohammed_bin_Nayef #Sabah_al-Ahmed_al-Jaber_al-Sabah #Saudi_Arabia #syria #Yemen


  • Qatar no longer offering citizenship to Bahraini nationals: Bahrain interior minister « ASHARQ AL-AWSAT
    http://www.aawsat.net/2014/11/article55338696

    Qatar no longer offering citizenship to Bahraini nationals: Bahrain interior minister
    Bahrain earlier accused Qatar of luring its citizens to switch nationality

    Bahraini Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Bin Abdullah Bin Hamad Al Khalifa attends the consultative meeting of interior ministers from the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), in the Bahraini capital Manama on April 23, 2013. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Al-Shaikh)

    Manama and Abu Dhabi, Asharq Al-Awsat—Qatar has stopped offering Bahraini nationals Qatari citizenship, Bahraini Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Bin Abdullah Bin Hamad Al Khalifa said on Tuesday, in what may mark the end of a long-running dispute between the two states.

    Sheikh Rashid said the understanding reached between the two countries on the issue reflected their “mutual respect,” and would help the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) remain united.

    Controversy erupted earlier in the year after Doha allegedly began offering Qatari citizenship to Bahraini nationals from prominent Sunni families, many of them members of the military and security services, according to sources who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat in September.

    Manama issued three warnings to Doha in August and September over the issue, and passed a law in August imposing fines on Bahraini citizens who took on the nationalities of other countries without the approval of the authorities.

    Bahraini citizens are permitted to have dual nationalities, but only after seeking permission from the minister of the interior.

    Sources speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat in September said the issue was one of the main sticking points in the months-long dispute within the GCC, which saw Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain accuse Qatar of interfering in their internal affairs.

    The dispute was resolved on Sunday following an emergency meeting in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, following efforts to mediate the diplomatic row by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

    Sheikh Rashid praised the work of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, in helping to resolve the dispute, saying it displayed the “importance of the role which GCC countries can play to bring about stability in the Arab world, especially during the unusual circumstances the region is currently experiencing.”

    He added that these events “obligated us [GCC countries] to have a united outlook and to undertake concerted efforts” to ensure regional stability.

    Meanwhile, King Abdullah received a message from the Ruler of Dubai and Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and Gen. Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces—who both represented the UAE at Sunday’s meeting—thanking him, and the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmed Al Sabah, for their mediation efforts.


  • Yemen Crisis Spells Trouble in Saudi Arabia’s Backyard - The Washington Institute for Near East Policy

    http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/yemen-crisis-spells-trouble-in-saudi-arabias-backyard

    Washington’s Gulf partners in the coalition against ISIS are increasingly distracted by the takeover of the Yemeni capital by pro-Iranian Houthi tribesmen.

    On October 1, the interior ministers of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman, joined by the head of Saudi intelligence, held an “emergency” meeting in the Saudi Red Sea port city of Jeddah to discuss the rapidly deteriorating situation in Yemen, where the government of President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi has lost control of the capital, Sana. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states have been guiding an “initiative” to smooth political reform since the 2012 collapse of the regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. An official statement afterward, apart from platitudes like the “necessity to restore all official headquarters and institutions,” included the ominous phrase that the GCC states will not idly tolerate “foreign interference,” an obvious reference to Iran.

    #yémen #arabie_saoudite #golfe


  • #Land_grabbing – A new political strategy for Arab countries
    http://farmlandgrab.org/post/view/23786-land-grabbing-a-new-political-strategy-for-arab-countries

    Some governments of member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – have adopted explicit policies to encourage their citizens to invest in food production overseas as part of their long-term national food security strategies.

    Such policies cover a variety of instruments, including investment subsidies and guarantees, as well as the establishment of sovereign funds focusing exclusively on investments in agriculture overseas.

    Countries falling victims of the land acquisition mania range from Western countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, Ukraine and Romania to countries in Latin America, Asia or Africa.

    Globally, the largest targeted countries are Brazil with 11 percent by land area; Sudan with 10 percent; Madagascar, the Philippines and Ethiopia with 8 percent each; Mozambique with 7 percent; and Indonesia with 6 percent, according to the World Bank.

    “The main driving force seems to be biofuels expansion, with exceptions in Sudan and Ethiopia, which are seeing a trend towards growth of food from Middle Eastern and Indian investors,” Hussain points out.

    #terres #alimentation #business #agrocarburants


  • Bahrain News Agency - 09 July, 2014

    The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)’s Secretary-General Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani expressed astonishment following the acts of US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour Affairs who was visiting the Kingdom of Bahrain two days ago.

    Dr. Al-Zayani told Bahrain News Agency (BNA) that the US diplomat’s holding meeting(s) with representatives of a certain political society excluding other components of the Bahraini community who have a significant political role in the community is deemed as an interference in the Kingdom of Bahrain’s internal affairs and it is absolutely incompliant with international diplomatic norms.

    He said that such astonishing acts do not reflect the historic bilateral relations which have existed over the eons between the Kingdom of Bahrain and the United States of America.

    The GCC Secretary-General concluded that this does not help in confidence-building amongst the components of the Bahraini community, stressing that such acts do not support the positive trend of Bahrain’s ambitious reform programme.


  • GCC ambassadors’ reinstatement reports denied | GulfNews.com
    http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/qatar/gcc-ambassadors-reinstatement-reports-denied-1.1344277

    A Bahraini diplomat has ruled out the reinstatement of three Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) ambassadors in Qatar within days as claimed by media reports.
    “There is an ad hoc committee following up the Riyadh Declaration and so far it has not reached a decision that would reinstate the ambassadors in Doha within days,” the diplomat said, quoted by local daily Al Ayam on Sunday. The paper did not name the diplomat.


  • Undermining the #Sudairi_clan: The king manages the power struggle
    http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/undermining-sudairi-clan-king-manages-power-struggle

    Saudi Crown #Prince_Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud speaks during the opening session of the Gulf Cooperation Council on May 14, 2014 in Jeddah, #Saudi_Arabia. (Photo: AFP-Mandel Ngan) Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud speaks during the opening session of the Gulf Cooperation Council on May 14, 2014 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo: AFP-Mandel Ngan)

    Since Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz was crowned king on August 2, 2005 as successor to his half brother Fahd bin Abdul Aziz - who died on July 31, 2005 - he designed a policy for himself aimed at changing the balance of power. He put new rules for the transfer of power stemming from a background that is clearly inconsistent with the direction of his primary competition, the (...)

    #Mideast_&_North_Africa #Allegiance_Commission #Articles #King_Abdul_Aziz #Prince_Nayef