Wang Yi, China’s top diplomat, stands between Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, and Saudi Arabia’s minister of state and national security adviser, Musaad bin Mohammed Al Aiban, on Friday in Beijing. (Photo: Chinese Foreign Ministry)
While advocates of peace and a multipolar world order welcomed Friday’s China-brokered agreement reestablishing diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, U.S. press, pundits, and politicians expressed what one observer called “imperial anxieties” over the deal and growing Chinese influence in a region dominated by the United States for decades.
A flooded village in Matiari, in the Sindh province of Pakistan. Photo: Asad Zaidi/UNICEF
How do you turn 365 days experienced by eight billion people – and billions more other beings – into some kind of story?
Maybe you start with some events?
In which case, 2022 was the year that Covid vaccines kicked in. Daily global deaths hit 77,000 on 7 February, and have declined fairly steadily ever since. It was the year Russia invaded Ukraine, the first war between major European powers since 1945. Continue reading →
“The Biden administration has not only shielded MBS from accountability in U.S. courts, but has effectively issued him a license to kill more detractors and declared that he will never be held accountable.”
President Joe Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz. Photo: Saudi Press Agency/Wikimedia Commons/CC
The Biden administration said in a U.S. federal court filing on Thursday that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman should be granted sovereign immunity in a civil case brought by the fiancée of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a stance that human rights advocates condemned as a betrayal of the president’s vow to hold the Saudi leader accountable.
Lawyers for the U.S. Department of Justice wrote in the new filing that the White House “has determined that Defendant bin Salman, as the sitting head of a foreign government, enjoys head-of-state immunity from the jurisdiction of U.S. courts as a result of that office and is entitled to immunity from the court’s jurisdiction of this suit while he holds that office.” Continue reading →
Thirty-two years ago next month, I was in Germany reporting on the fall of the Berlin Wall, an event then heralded as a triumph of Western democratic liberalism and even “the end of history.”
But democracy isn’t doing so well across the globe now. Nothing underscores how far we have come from that moment of irrational exuberance than the powerful warning the Nobel Prize Committee felt compelled to issue on Oct. 8, 2021 in awarding its coveted Peace Prize to two reporters. Continue reading →
Pre=deployment training at Tier 1 Group. Photo: T1G/Facebook
When the journalist Jamal Khashoggi was assassinated by agents of the Saudi government in 2018, it caused an international scandal. Now, it turns out that his killers were trained in the US. In June, The New York Times reported that four Saudis involved in the killing had received paramilitary training from Tier 1 Group, a private security company based in Arkansas.
This was no renegade operation, however. Tier 1 Group, whose training had approval from the US State Department, is part of a burgeoning global industry. Corporate mercenaries – or, more properly, private security and military companies – are increasingly taking over functions that were once carried out by states, with grave implications for human rights and democracy worldwide. It’s big business, too: Cerberus Capital Management, the private equity fund that owns Tier 1 Group, also owns a string of arms manufacturers. In April 2010, Cerberus merged with DynCorp International, one of the world’s largest corporate mercenary companies. Continue reading →
Responding to the Biden administration’s opposition to the International Criminal Court’s investigation of alleged Israeli war crimes in Palestine, Rep. Rashida Tlaib on Wednesday defended the probe while reminding the administration that “no one is above the law.”
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. “firmly opposes” the ICC investigation while vowing to “continue to uphold our strong commitment to Israel and its security, including by opposing actions that seek to target Israel unfairly.” In addition to alleged Israeli crimes, the probe will also examine war crimes allegedly committed by the militant Palestinian resistance group Hamas. 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 →
Journalists and advocates for free expression and information celebrated #WorldPressFreedomDay Friday. (Image: RSF)
As the international community celebrated #WorldPressFreedomDay on Friday, a leading global nonprofit warned that only 9 percent of humanity lives in countries with good or satisfactory levels of press freedom.
Journalism advocacy group Reporters Sans Frontières—also known as RSF, or Reporters Without Borders—highlighted the detail from its annual World Press Freedom Index, published last month. Based on the report’s findings, the journalism group produced a color-coded map that shows how each country on Earth generally regards free expression and information. Continue reading →
The U.S. slid down a yearly list ranking press freedom in nations around the world, falling three places to number 48. (Image: Reporters Without Borders)
An annual accounting of press freedoms around the world describes an “intense climate of fear” in which reporters are being forced to work, calling out world leaders like U.S. President Donald Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro for their attacks on the media.
Trump’s repeated statements that journalists are “the enemy of the people” and his threats to roll back their right to report political news have been a contributing factor in the United States’ descent to 48th place in the Press Freedom Index, which was released Thursday by Reporters Without Borders or Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF). 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 →