A Palestinian making art out of an unexploded Israeli missile. Photo: Wajd/Twitter
The reopening of the US Consulate in East Jerusalem, which reverses one of Trump’s key moves against the Palestinian Authority, was the most significant outcome of the US secretary of state Antony Blinken’s four-state visit to the Middle East this week.
President Joe Biden’s top diplomat also announced immediate support for reconstruction in Gaza, while maintaining strong support for Israel. Yet Blinken has not proposed new peace talks, nor has he engaged with Hamas, which the US and Israel still deem to be a terrorist organisation. Instead, his quick tour through Jerusalem, Ramallah, Cairo and Amman was mainly focused on consolidating the ceasefire. If it helps, good, but it still does nothing to address the underlying issues. Continue reading →
New figures from the UN and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute show that since the war in Yemen began, the US has sold over $13 billion in high-tech weapons to Saudi Arabia, making the Kingdom a cash cow for US weapons makers.
Despite presenting itself as a force for good and peace in the Middle East, the United States sells at least five times as much weaponry to Saudi Arabia than aid it donates to Yemen. The State Department constantlyportraysitself as a humanitarian superpower with the welfare of the Yemeni people as its highest priority, yet figures released from the United Nations and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) show that since the war in Yemen began, the U.S. government has given $2.56 billion in aid to the country, but sold over $13 billion in high-tech weapons to Saudi Arabia, the leader of the coalition prosecuting a relentless onslaught against the country.
Figures like these are always debatable. What constitutes legitimate “aid” is a question everyone would answer differently. Furthermore, the $13 billion figure does not include the enormous weapons deal Saudi Arabia signed with Donald Trump in 2017, which will reportedly see the Kingdom purchase $350 billion over ten years. Continue reading →
With the world’s death toll from Covid-19 above one million and confirmed cases surpassing 36 million, a pair of advocacy groups on Thursday released an analysis illustrating how governments’ failures to implement policies that reduce inequality left countries “woefully unprepared” for the coronavirus pandemic.
The Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index, updated annually by Oxfam International and Development Finance International (DFI), ranks 158 governments based on three core pillars: spending on public services (meaning health, education, and social protection), progressive taxation policies, and workers’ rights. Continue reading →
Cellphone tower | Picture by Peter Bjorndal / pixabay.com. Public Domain
Regime-directed surveillance has taken new forms within the Middle East as governments have been forced to adapt to new technological and social environments. While government surveillance of its citizens is not new to the region, this old authoritarian impulse has been revamped in the attempt to subvert opposition and monitor dissidence amid widespread use of social media and access to smartphones within the region.
New forms of targeted hackings and espionage have therefore become commonplace throughout the region, and often extend across borders into the international arena. Western companies, governments, and individuals have provided extensive assistance to the surveillance efforts of these governments, often by supplying them with the necessary technology and expertise needed to conduct such sweeping operations. However, regional countries – particularly Israel – have increasingly constructed and exported their own indigenous operations and platforms designed to surveil their publics. Conducted on a mass scale and bolstered by western technological support, these new and sophisticated forms of surveillance have supplied these governments with the tools necessary to go on the offensive against all who seek to challenge the status quo. Continue reading →
Already seven of the 10 countries in the world with the highest military budgets are in the Middle East. The development of nuclear weapons in Saudi Arabia has many speculating that it could mark the beginning of an even more dangerous era for the war-torn region.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s energy secretary, Rick Perry, has secretly approved the sale of nuclear power technology and assistance to Saudi Arabia, Reutersrevealed this week. Saudi Arabia is reportedly attempting to construct at least two nuclear power plants as part of its effort to diversify its energy sector and its economy as a whole. As part of this plan it has accepted bids from Russia, South Korea and the U.S. for the lucrative contract. Perry’s approval is known as a Part 810 authorization, which allows energy companies to begin the process of planning and starting preliminary work in anticipation of the closing of a formal deal in the future.
While the Saudi proposals are presented as civilian and do not mention nuclear weaponry, U.S. approval and sale of nuclear technology has been seen by many as a prelude to the development of a Saudi nuclear weapon, which could potentially spark a nuclear arms race in the region. Riyadh has long coveted atomic weaponry and has considered developing its own in its quest to maintain military dominance in the region. “If Iran develops a nuclear weapon, that will be unacceptable to us and we will have to follow suit” Prince Turki al-Faisal, former Saudi ambassador to the United States, told the Guardian in 2011, noting that the kingdom may feel “compelled” to pursue the option in the future, if tensions with Iran remain high. Continue reading →
Iran’s no democratic paradise, but Washington’s Saudi allies are even worse.
By Medea Benjamin. Published 8-19-2015 at OtherWords
Late King Abdullah and King Salman, then the Crown Prince. (Photo: Tribes of the World/ Flickr)
Except for maybe the Affordable Care Act, nothing gets Republican politicians fired up like Iran.
In the first GOP debate alone, Scott Walker promised that he’d tear up the Iran nuclear deal on day one of his presidency. Carly Fiorina blamed the country for “most of the evil that is going on in the Middle East.” Mike Huckabee vowed to topple the “terrorist Iranian regime and defeat the evil forces of radical Islam.”
Oddly, when the candidates complain about the “evil forces of radical Islam” or trouble in the Middle East, they never seem to mention Saudi Arabia.