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Big Power Rivalry in the Gulf Requires a US Strategy Rethink

Dr. James M Dorsey

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Gulf Rivalry

Last updated on October 10th, 2019

As French, Pakistani and other leaders seek to engineer a meeting between the US and Iranian presidents on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, big power rivalry could rack up tension in the waters of the Gulf and the Indian Ocean.

With prospects for a face-to-face encounter between presidents Donald J. Trump and Hassan Rouhani slim at best, attention is likely to focus on beefing up the security of key Saudi oil facilities after drone and missile attacks, blamed by the kingdom and the United States on Iran, and identifying an appropriate response that minimizes the risk of a full-fledged military confrontation.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, days after the attacks severely damaged oil installations, joined a US-led coalition to secure the Middle East’s waterways. Earlier, Britain, Bahrain and Australia pledged to participate in the coalition.

Japan declined to join but said it was considering sending its Maritime Self-Defense Force (SDF) on information-gathering missions in the region. It said it would coordinate with the US-led coalition and would include the Strait of Hormuz in its operations if Iran agreed. Japan has unsuccessfully sought to mediate between the United States and Iran.

The US Defense Department, meanwhile, in response to a request from Saudi Arabia and the UAE and in an effort to reassure Gulf allies said last week that it was sending an unspecified number of troops and equipment to the two countries to bolster their defences.

Iranian Brigadier General Ghadir Nezami, head of international and diplomatic affairs of his country’s armed forces, raised the stakes by saying that the Iranian navy would be holding joint exercises with Russia and China in the Indian Ocean and the Sea of Oman.

General Nezami, who is believed to have recently accompanied chairman of the Iranian Joint Chiefs of Staff Major General Mohammad Baqeri on a visit to China, gave no date for the exercises. Chinese and Russian media have yet to report the planned exercise while spokesmen in the two countries declined to confirm or deny the Iranian announcement.

Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi said in July that the Russian and Iranian navies would be conducting a joint exercise within a matter of months to boost military cooperation.

Russian and Chinese hesitancy to confirm the exercise may be designed to avoid hiking tensions as efforts at the United Nations to mediate between the United States and Iran proceed.

Moreover, Russian president Vladimir Putin is likely to want to avoid a shadow being cast over his planned visit to Saudi Arabia in October. Mr. Putin has urged the kingdom to proceed with the acquisition of Russia’s S-400 anti-missile system that was agreed in principle two years ago.

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov met this week with his Saudi counterpart Ibrahim Assaf at the United Nations to discuss the visit.

Russia and China may also not want to undermine a Chinese-backed Russian proposal for a collective security agreement in the Gulf that would replace the US defence umbrella at a time that Saudi Arabia, uncertain about American reliability, may reach out to other countries for support in protecting its oil assets.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency last week reported that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had requested South Korean assistance in the strengthening of the kingdom’s air defense system.

Gulf concern about US reliability, dating back to US president Barack Obama’s negotiation of an international nuclear agreement with Iran and reinforced by Mr. Trump’s transactional response to the recent attacks on Saudi oil fields, leaves the Saudis and the Americans with no good choices.

Middle East scholar and former advisor to the US Defence Department Bilal Y. Saab argues, against the backdrop of a widespread feeling in Gulf states that the United States is gradually reducing its commitment to their defense as Washington focuses on Asia and the Indo-Pacific, that the United States in particular is caught in a Catch-22.

Its options of reducing commitment without surrendering its umbilical defense cord and making way for America’s rivals are limited.

Mr. Saab believes that the United States should focus its security cooperation less single-mindedly on arms sales and more on building the Gulf states’ institutional national defense infrastructure. Failure to do so, would risk regional tensions repeatedly spiraling out of control and ultimately prevent a gradual US drawdown.

The problem is, in Mr. Saab’s words, that what the United States should be doing to “responsibly reduce its security burden and footprint in the region” while safeguarding opportunities for lucrative arms sales would likely reinforce perceptions of America as unreliable and willing to sacrifice its friends – a perception that dates from the 2011 popular Arab revolts when Washington ultimately backed the toppling of Egyptian president and US ally Hosni Mubarak.

Mr. Saad is the first person to admit that his proposition may be pie in the sky.

“It would mean building and empowering institutions that have the guns, and thus the ability, to conduct coups. Only a foolish Arab autocrat would be interested in that. It would also mean liberalizing or professionalizing national-security ministries and intelligence agencies. Few Arab leaders would voluntarily undermine the favourable clientelistic networks that are run by their governments. In short, defense reform requires political reform,” he says.

Moreover, institution building would bring the different threat perceptions of the Gulf states and the US into sharp relief and force Gulf states to rethink their arms acquisition policies and grant the United States access to their jealously guarded most secret data and programs.

Said Mr. Saab: “There is no shortage of problems on the US end or on its partners’ end when it comes to security cooperation. But it will be impossible to address any of those without making a total switch on how the United States thinks about security cooperation.”

That would require a US president who thinks in strategic rather than transactional terms.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s.

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Suspect of California School Shooting Dies Without Revealing Motive

Mirror News Desk

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Santa Clarita

Shootings across the world have become quite common, but the recent incident in California came as extremely unusual and dreadful. On Thursday, a 16-year-old boy decided to celebrate his birthday not by blowing the candles, but by shooting his mates.

Entering Saugus High School in Southern California, the boy pulled out a pistol from his backpack and shot five of his classmates and himself in 16 seconds. Two of the victims, including a 16-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy, died at a hospital. Three other were wounded and taken by ambulance from Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, said authorities.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva stated that the suspected gunman, Nathaniel Tennosuke Berhow used the last bullet from a .45-caliber piston to shoot himself. After being in a critical condition for a day, he died on Friday. Besides, the investigators also couldn’t discover the motive behind the attack.

“It still remains a mystery why,” sheriff Villanueva stated a press conference. He said it was “a planned attack, it was deliberate”, but “we don’t have” the details behind it.

“As far as we know the actual targets were at random,” the sheriff said.
Friends and neighbors of Berhow described him as a bright, funny, quiet and a normal. Authorities were looking into biographical information on his social media account, but no signs of violence were found. Besides, he also didn’t appear to be liked to extremism or terrorist group.

At a press conference, Capt. Kent Wegener of the Sheriff’s Department’s homicide unit said that authorities couldn’t find any clue, despite over 40 interviews and investigations at his home.

Officials stated that the shooting began before the classes started at around 7:30 a.m., where several students streamed out of the building and other hid. The chaos also left one injured and in need of medical attention. Students were shepherded to the nearby Central Park by officials, where parents were told to meet them.

The two victims, who died, were identified as Gracie Anne Muehlberger and Dominic Blackwell.

While the suspect has died himself, the investigation becomes even more complex. Besides, where no evidence has been found yet, the motive behind the shooting might remain in dark for more time than expected.

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New Zealand Considers Euthanasia Legalisation, Elderly Women to Benefit Most

Mirror News Desk

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Euthanasia

Poor health followed with disability is a common problem in old age that brings many on the verge of death, signifying the fact that mortality rates increase exponentially at older ages. But what about the ones, who due to their incurable illness wish to put an end to their sufferings themselves?

Practicing euthanasia is the answer to all of their problems and New Zealand is one of the countries, which is now putting efforts to make it legal. There is a growing body of information on the extent to which disability impacts on the lives of older people in New Zealand and how they actually make a request for their death to be hastened by a physician.

To legalise euthanasia, the lawmakers backed David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill to get it passed in New Zealand Parliament on Wednesday. The country’s authorities are due to hold a national referendum on the issue before the provisions of the bill goes into effect.

Euthanasia, in practice, is the termination of a very sick person’s life in order to relieve them of their suffering. Euthanasia is legal in countries such as Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.

Since 2017, there have been eight parliamentary debates and a record 39,000 submissions from the public on the issue. If the bill gets endorsed by voters in a referendum next year, patients with less than six months to live, would be eligible for euthanasia.

Nearly, 72 percent of New Zealanders support medical assistance in hastening death, yet there are opposition lawmakers, who have equally criticised the bill, calling it to be “dangerous and permissive” and saying that it would bring back state-sanctioned killing and would force the older patients to end their lives.

Thus, under the new agreements patients would be required to suggest the ending of life first, and two doctors must agree that the patient is well informed and other criteria were met.

“It’s entirely about choice,” the lawmaker sponsoring the bill, David Saymor, said on Wednesday.

“It makes me proud of our country that we can have this debate, and we can actually get progress, and become a more free and compassionate society,” added Saymor, who is the only representative of the libertarian ACT Party In the 120-seat assembly.  

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also supported calls for euthanasia reform, following the protestors vocalising their disagreement with the bill outside the parliament. The voting on the bill in a referendum will take place in conjunction with the 2020 elections in New Zealand.

Moreover, a second referendum question, about recreational cannabis that are used to intentionally change one’s state of consciousness, often producing feelings of happiness and exhilaration, will also be on the ballot paper.

Legalising euthanasia is most likely to benefit women, who are much more prone to diseases but tend to have a longer life expectancy than men. Such a practice would bring them at peace and relieve them of their long sufferings, lessening the health concerning cases, while resulting in more youthful and balanced population in New Zealand.

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Violation of Iran Nuclear Deal May Lead to Further Sanctions from European Countries

Mirror News Desk

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Iran Nuclear Deal

The continuous strife between Iran and the US over the Iran Nuclear Deal has for a long time contributed in creating instability in the Middle East. Since only European signatories are trying to safeguard the deal, maintain regional peace and oil availability in the global market, the chances of the deal being upheld are quite bleak.

On the other hand, the Iranian government is continuously enriching uranium, despite the warnings from the European countries of the possible consequences for the violation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) deal.  

Despite the Iranian government’s stance of not backing down, the spokespersons from Germany, the United Kingdom and France on Monday, asked the Iranian authorities to withdraw all its breaches of the Iran Nuclear Deal.

As per the reports by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), traces of uranium particles have been found on an undeclared site in Iran. Although the location of the site is kept under wraps, it is believed that the traces were found at the “secret atomic warehouse” in Turquzabad district of Tehran.

To make the matters worse, the report also claimed Iran had begun uranium enrichment at an underground Fordo facility, violating the Non-Proliferation Treaty under the deal, which prevented Iran from making nuclear weapons.

The Iranian government has blamed the US for its actions claiming to be in retaliation of the US’ withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal in 2018 and the sanctions, which Trump administration imposed on Iran.

And seeing the current economy of Iran, it is not hard to comprehend the consequences of the issue, if the European countries themselves back out of the Iran Nuclear Deal or impose sanctions on the Middle Eastern country.

Furthermore, the aftermath of the sanctions will add more woes to the instability in the region and might even affect the global production of oil, causing a rise in per barrel prices and affecting the global economy.

Addressing the gravity of the situation, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, before the meeting in Brussels said, “Iran must finally return to its commitments (under the 2015 accord). Otherwise, we will reserve the right to use all mechanisms specified in the deal (for sanctions to be reimposed).”

The European nations also made a statement addressing the gravity of the situation and continuously worsening Iran Nuclear Deal. The leaders said, “We stand ready to continue our diplomatic efforts to create the conditions for, and to facilitate, the de-escalation of tensions in the Middle East. These efforts are however made increasingly difficult by Iran’s latest actions.”

“We affirm our readiness to consider all mechanisms in the [nuclear deal] including the dispute resolution mechanism, to resolve the issues,” the European leaders added in the statement.

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Learning Lessons: Protesters Stay One Step Ahead of Rulers

Dr. James M Dorsey

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Protests

There’s a déjà vu feeling to this year’s wave of protests across the Arab world.

It’s not that this year saw the toppling of the leaders of Algeria and Sudan as a result of popular revolts, a harking back to the 2011 protests that overthrew the leaders of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen.

It’s that it’s the protesters in Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and Morocco rather than illiberal or autocratic regimes that have learnt the lessons of 2011.

Had illiberal and autocratic leaders learnt the lessons, they would not have been taken again by surprise by mass protests, often sparked by a black swan.

Lessons learnt would have meant putting their ear to the ground, hearing the groundswell of anger and frustration boiling at the surface over lack of economic opportunity and basic services, widespread corruption that benefits the few and complicates life for the many, and a clamouring for the ability to vent those grievances.

It’s a lesson that is valid beyond the Arab world with similar protests, like in 2011, erupting across the globe in countries such as Hong Kong, Russia, Peru, Haiti, Ecuador, Indonesia, and world-wide climate change-related demonstrations.

For their part, demonstrators in Algeria and Sudan concluded from the 2011 protests that toppling a leader was the beginning not the end of the process.

In Algeria, protesters remain in the streets six months after President Abdelaziz Bouteflika stepped down, battling the army for a political process that will guarantee structural change rather than enable an electoral process that ensures that the military and its aligned business interests remain the power behind the throne.

Sudanese demonstrators surrendered the street only after agreement had been reached with the military on a three-year-long transition towards civilian rule.

The Sudanese and Algerian experiences, like the lessons to be learnt from the 2011 revolts, suggest that the playing field in the wake of the fall of an autocrat is striking a balance between protesters’ demands for fundamental change and the determination of elites and the military to preserve their economic interests, some degree of control of security and safeguards against being held accountable for past abuse.

What demonstrators have going for them, beyond the power of the street, is the fact that popular discontent is not the only thing that mitigates against maintenance of the pre-protest status quo.

Countries across the Middle East and North Africa, characterized by youth bulges, can no longer evade economic reform that addresses widespread youth unemployment, the need to create large numbers of jobs, and inevitable diversification and streamlining of bloated government bureaucracies.

Algeria is a case in point. Foreign exchange reserves have dropped from US$193.6 billion in 2014 to US$72 billion in 2019. Reserves cover 13 months of imports at best in a country that imports 70 percent of what it consumes,

“If the state can no longer deliver goods and services, socio-economic discontent will rise further…. In order to avoid such a situation… the state and its citizens will have to renegotiate their relationship. In the past the state provided, and Algerians abided. This is no longer economically feasible today, nor is it what Algerians appear to want as they seek more transparency, less corruption, and better governance of Algeria’s resources,” said Algeria scholar Dalia Ghanem.

Attention in the past years since the 2011 popular Arab revolts has focussed on the consequences of the Saudi-UAE led counterrevolution that brutally rolled back protesters achievements in Egypt and contributed to the Iranian-backed military campaign of Houthi rebels in Yemen and the devastating subsequent military intervention in that country as well as civil wars in Syria and Libya.

Yet, the past eight years have also been characterized by issues-oriented protests that often involved new, creative forms of expression of discontent.

Iraq, Algeria and Sudan rather than Egypt contain lessons for the future.

Egypt’s field marshal-turned-president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi may have squashed recent protests with mass arrests and security force violence, but his conspiratorial depictions of a plot engineered by the repressed and weakened Muslim Brotherhood are unlikely to dampen widespread discontent with his failed economic policies that have benefited the elite and impoverished many.

Mr. Al-Sisi may have ended the protests for now, but continued refusal to address grievances makes Egypt an accident waiting to happen.

The demography of protesters in Iraq proves the point. The protests could have been avoided had the Iraqi government focused on tackling corruption, ensuring the delivery of basic services, and creating jobs for university graduates and opportunities for those who returned from defeating the Islamic State to find that they were deprived of opportunities.

One lesson of the protests in Iraq and Hong Kong is the fact that repressive government responses, the killing of more than 100 demonstrators in Iraq or the banning of face masks in Hong Kong, fuel rather than calm public anger.

Said Hong Kong pro-democracy law maker Fernando Cheung: “This is adding fuel to the fire. This will mark the beginning of riots in Hong Kong.”

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s.

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THE DARK FACE OF THE ROMANIAN SOCIETY!

Crinel Niculae

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ROMANIAN SOCIETY!

Last updated on November 10th, 2019

As the country burns – engulfed by the flames of hell – the elect of the nation kneads and prepares for the last waltz!

We are approaching the presidential elections with rapid steps, and if we look closely at the political picture, we will observe that none of those enrolled in the Cotroceni armchair race have the experience and ability to take on the highest office in the state.

Almost 30 years have passed since the 1989 Revolution; they passed as if in a moment … Nothing good happened, but on the contrary, the Romanian society is at the moment at a crossroads. The spider of lies and corruption stretches across the borders of the country, from North to South and from East to West; And the people dance as these pharisees sing, behind which hide many dangerous games.

Parvenitism, avarice and infatuation invaded the political scene and stormed the main institutions of the state, triggering the madness syndrome; a disease often found among the top politicians. For thirty years, all those who have been caught in the political hour, plundered the country on the high road and ravaged the land and forests of the country; like the hordes of barbarians who, in the old days, destroyed everything in their path. Feeling the smell of fresh blood, the nighttime predators roamed the barn and celebrated the kingdoms of the country’s possessions … And over the Romanian land there was a lot of dust and ashes!

The riches of Romania have always represented a horn of the abundance from which both they and their families have been involved for years; With much greed, the criminals put their hands up to their elbows in the jar of honey and patted each other, without even thinking for a moment, those needy people living on the edge of subsistence!

One hundred years after the Great Union, Romania breathes hard under the burden of the criminals, who cover the lands with hundreds of horse power (luxury bowls) and spread their wealth unmistakably through all kinds of delicious parties and exotic vacations.

Ten years ago, at the 2009 Referendum, the will of the Romanians rose above any petty interests and decided very clearly – by a freely expressed vote (constitutional VOTE), the establishment of a Unicameral Parliament composed of 300 representatives. The Romanians have voted at that time to reduce the number of parliamentarians! But unfortunately, this vote was ignored by an illegitimate parliament and a ruthless political class.

During this time, the leaders of the main political groups have staged Machiavellian plans to destroy Romania; and now, at dusk, the jackals sharpen their teeth and prepare for the final assault, running desperate and hungry from one corner to another of the political chessboard. These traitors covet the saving vote and take their eyes off each other, trying to seize the largest and tastiest bowl … And they will make any dirty compromise, to ensure their assets, freedom and functions.

In their pursuit of money and power, the robbers acted in the pack and played the country on the black stock market, making all kinds of illegal transactions that harmed the Romanian state. They knowingly destroyed the Romanian economy, industry, agriculture, education system, health system and sport, using the two weapons of mass destruction: MANIPULATION and DISINFORMATION!

Moreover, this mafia structure – supported and directed from the outside by hidden groups – destroyed the Justice of Romania and divided the country into rich and poor … These individuals without any God trampled everything and trampled the ground with their soles!

Mass-Media has turned into a circus, and Romanian journalists are mere jesters at the owner’s court!
The Romanian Parliament becomes a cursed place every day; a place where the thieves, hidden under the mask of innocence, falsely waltz and play the role of the good Samaritans, presenting us with the same absurd movie, full of lies and empty promises.

Far from the real problems of society, politicians have built their own world and have erected a high wall between themselves and the citizens of this country, looking indifferently at everything that is happening.

On the other side of the wall, the robbery, the murders, thefts, the rapes, the treachery, the hypocrisy, the chaos, the poverty, the defilement, the manipulation and the impotence make their presence felt and we are thinking about the scary, long gone times, in which the emperor Nero ruled over the Empire. Romanian.
Romania is a country with an identity card forged by these impostors, who have put their claws on the reins of power; and all these terrible facts pencil the Bacovian (desolate) picture of the Romanian society!

Sin hardens the conscience of the Romanian people, and the old people despaired of fate are eagerly awaiting the great flood!

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s.

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