Yemen Crisis: Climate and Water Scarcity

Yemen Crisis: Climate and Water Scarcity

In addition to climate change, most acutely felt in the desert and polar regions of the earth, experts previously warned that Yemen could be the first country to run out of the water as a consequence of global warming since it has no rivers, rainfall has been decreasing; thus underground aquifers are not being replenished. Even if water were available, the infrastructure to drill and access underground water tables is inaccessible further exacerbating water insecurity.

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The History of American Aid for Jordan

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meets with King Abdullah II of Jordan at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on January 18, 2012. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meets with King Abdullah II of Jordan at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on January 18, 2012. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

JORDAN, Amman - The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, one of the Unite States' key ally in the troubled Middle East. It is also one of more than 200 other countries and territories across the globe that consistently receive annual U.S. aid to help face their political and economic hardships. However, despite all this financial support Jordan has received from the second half of the last century up to today, the country has incurred heavy debt of almost $24 billion or around 90 percent of its GDP.  

Based on USAID’s data, this article sheds the light on the extent to which America financed the support Jordan for over the past 16 years, in effect bolstering the reign King Abdulla who ascended the throne in 1999 and continues to rule.

Money received

Jordan has received almost $13 billion during Abdulla's reign, which accounts for 46 percent of the total amount of aid given by America since 1951. When Abdulla inherited the throne of Father King Hussain, as the new ruler he took a more aggressive approach to broadening the country's relationship with the U.S. It appears that the relationship was quid pro quo, giving the appearance that America purchased the country to strengthen its presence in the Middle East. This in effect was how Jordan became a key alley to the U.S, during its invasion of Iraq in 2003, and established the foundation of a joint venture in the war against terrorism in the Middle East.

U.S giving aid to Jordan in 1951, resulting in the cumulative amount of aid given to the country at an astounding $28 billion. The data also shows that Jordan has received approximately $700 million per annum. In 2003, the year of the U.S invasion of Iraq, Jordan received its highest amount in aid which topped out at $1.5 billion.

Another notable fact was that during the intervening years of the civil war in Syria, the U.S. has exponentially increased both its presence in the region and aid to Jordan. Between 2012-2014, the country was given around 4 billion dollars, more than one billion each year in aid or roughly 14% of the total amount of aid the U.S. has given to the country since 1951.

During those three years, Jordan has also tried to absorb more than half a million refugees from neighboring Syria, while actively participating and supporting its allies in the war against ISIS.

In general, the data shows that the amount of aid has tripled over the examined period, increasing from almost $300 million in 1999 to more than $800 million in 2015.

Aid by category

Analyzing the data based on the category of the type of aid received, both economic or military, shows that economic aids was consistetly higher than that allocated to the military.

Aid by sector

Over the past 16 years, the lion share of the aid, around $3 billion or 26%, was channeled into Security System Management and Reform. Second on the list was General Budget Support, around $2 billion (18%) of the aids.Other sectors of the government have also been allocated aid during the examined period totaling five billion dollars. Second, came the category called “Other” which totaled around $3.5 billion. Of this number, the lowest awards were earmarked for education and economic growth and totaled around $300 million each. Despite the billions of dollars in aid to ostensibly improve governance, the country has failed to date to make any significant political reform.

Though initially seen as migrating toward a democracy, the government was actually more akin to a plutocracy. Now, King Abdullah rules as an autocratic monarch, a role which was codified by recent constitutional amendments which increased his powers to appoint and dismiss senior government employees. Most recently these included the president of the judiciary council, the president and the members of the constitutional court. Taken in tandem with his power to both handpick an appoint the prime minister, the chief of the staff and the president of the intelligence department, he has become the rule of law. A king who actually controls both the judiciary and executive branches of government giving him absolute power. This is in addition to his control of the army and security forces.

Transparency International, an organization with "chapters in more than 100 countries and an international secretariat in Berlin, is leading the fight against corruption to turn this vision into reality." A database of Corruption by Countries/Region, which includes a number of data points, including a "Corruption Perception Index” which assesses the amount of corruption perceived or actual which exists in any given countries' public sector. In 2015, on a scale of 168, the Kingdom scored 45, which is counter-intuitive to the fact that so much aid has been awarded to the country with a particular emphasis on political reform. The organization had another revealing indicator which measured the “control of corruption,” which reflects how much public power is exercised for private gain. The index includes both petty and grand forms of corruption, as well as "capture" of the state by elites and private interests. Jordan also scored quite low at 0.040 where the highest rank is 2.5 and lowest -2.5. (Source: World Bank)

Thus, the question remains, what has been gained by the magnanimous support of $38 billion given by America? Since it hasn't resulted in economic stability, as the country is poised on the precipice of insolvency, the priority is evidently focused on military efforts to maintain stability in the region. Hopefully in the future, once the eradication of the shared enemy, ISIS, has been accomplished and the war is won, additional aid will be tied to specific goals and milestones. One requirement may be to pay down the debt, as well as a shift toward more equitable and balanced governance, with a return to the separation of important branches of the government. But for now, Jordan like many other countries around the world has entered into a quid-pro-quo relationship with the U.S. It isn't all bad, nor as nefarious as some could make it, but what has been bought and paid for is a location from which to wage war against one of the most dangerous terrorist organization that threatens the West and the Middle East. It also provides direct on the ground access to the region which vastly improves intelligence gathering efforts. This is all good.

However, in these days and times when enemies form partnerships to achieve shared goals, governments need to take note of the potential price which may ultimately be exacted. Allies purchased through economic aid should be cautious and cognizant of the fate of many leaders in the Middle East and around the world who have benefited from Western largess, military arsenal, and technologies. The infusion of capital and assets often remains at the top and is purchased at the price of the ordinary citizens. People who end up suffering under the whims of dictators and authoritarian regimes supported by the U.S. for political expediency. In the Middle East alone this included Ruhollah Khomeini who governed Iran from 1979 - 1989, Hosni Mubarak who governed Egypt from 1981 - 2011, and Saddam Hussein who governed Iraq from 1979 - 2003 when he was executed. Of course there are many other oppressive regimes around the world that are supported by America, most notably in Africa, but the challenges and questions remain the same.

Does the need of the U.S. for political, military, or economic gain far outweigh the potential abuse of human rights? This is a question we all need to ask, and perhaps even pose to our government.

Contributing Journalist: @ImadSulieman
LinkedIn: Imad Alrawashdeh

Mohed Altrad, a Bedouin Who Flees the Desert, Becomes Billionaire, Wins Coveted 2015 EY Award

eiffel eyeful, photo by iwc photo

eiffel eyeful, photo by iwc photo

MARSEILLE, France - How many of us could walk through the desert to sit outside of school because we had such a thirst for knowledge? Would you be motivated enough to gaze through a hole in mud and tin roof schoolhouse and stare at a chalk board covered in symbols which meant nothing to you because you have never seen writing?

What if in addition to this, you knew that everyday after a several hour walk home that you would be beaten upon your arrival because your destiny was predetermined to be a sheepherder? Well not only did he learn to write, he excelled.

The man who did all of this and more is Mohed Altrad, a Syrian son of a Bedouin girl who was either 12 or 13-years-old when she was raped for the second time by his father who was the leader of their nomadic tribe. It was into these horrific circumstances that Altrad and his elder brother were born. In interviews, Altrad says that he doesn't remember his mother's name, but he does know that she died giving birth to him.

His elder brother was eventually murdered by his father, leaving Mohed to be raised by his maternal grandmother just outside Raqqa, which like many towns and cities in Syria, it is now controlled by the Islamic State (ISIS), but back then it was the place he called home.

Because his family were Bedouin tribesmen wandering the deserts of Syria, they kept no records of births or deaths so Altrad has no idea of his true age. According to interviews, he surmises that he is perhaps as old as 65, but this figure is not as important to him as all that he has achieved in remembrance of his mother. The pursuit of this promise to honor her has culminated in his becoming a billionaire, but the prize that has allowed him the visibility to publicly honor her was in being chosen as the 2014 French Entrepreneur of the Year.

As a result of the French Entrepreneur of the Year, he was nominated to represent France in the annual Ernst and Young World Entrepreneur of the Year competition. This year, 52 national award winners were nominated, but Altrad won the coveted 2015 award. Of course his ascent wasn't immediate, but his success was a consequence of his thirst for knowledge, his persistence, and triumph over the limitations set for him by his grandmother.

Once she died he was free to fully engage in the pursuit of his academic studies. He was just 17-years-old when he was awarded a scholarship by a Syrian foundation which granted him admission to the University of Kiev in Ukraine. He packed what little possessions he had and traveled to Europe where he knew no one and didn't speak the language. Upon his arrival he was told that the course was full, so he traveled to France. He recounted how he arrived during the coldest of winter days in France, unable to speak French, and with little means to support himself. He sometimes ate only one meal a day but this did not deter him. It seemed that the hardness of life in the Syrian desert prepared him to face any type of difficulty, and gave him the fortitude to withstand hardship and persevere.

In France he became fluent in French and matriculated into one of the oldest universities in Europe located in the city of Montpellier. There he pursued his undergraduate studies, eventually receiving his PhD in Computer Science. According to interviews, upon graduation he began to look for a business venture and as if destined, while sitting in a cafe he picked up a newspaper and noticed an advertisement from the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company which was seeking engineers to help design the infrastructure for their burgeoning oil and gas industry.

He made the decision to take the job because it would provide him with the opportunity to save money and perhaps to buy a business. Like other foreign nationals who even today work in the Middle East, they are paid astronomical salaries with nothing to spend the money on. Upon the completion of his contract, he returned to France in search of a business venture into which he could invest. He and his partner worked on and brought to market one of the first laptop computers.

These laptops were large and clunky, and according to interviews "were about the size of a suitcase." They were initially used as the precursor to the airport terminal computers that announce flight arrivals and departures. At that time he and his partner lacked the resources to scale and thus sold the company and continued to save money. Always in search of opportunities, he considered and discarded ventures into which he could invest. One day he was approached by a man who had been trying to sell his bankrupt scaffolding business, thus Altrad and his partner bought the faltering business in 1985.

Despite knowing nothing about scaffolding a decidedly non-tech business, he and his partner decided to assume the risk, plus the investment was relatively small. Altrad capitalized his investments by buying and selling not only scaffolding, but also everything that might be of benefit to builders. This included the expansion into the tool market, machinery, and cement etcetera. He also invested in the workforce by providing excellent employee benefits that made them happier and thus more productive. His company philosophy incentivize his employees to take ownership of their work product and feel like they were valuable to the company.

In the past 30 years under his management the Altrad Group has grown to 17,000 employees, with customers in 100 countries, and 170 subsidiary companies. According to their website the company "sells and hires out equipment for building and public works and for industry (mixers, scaffolding, tubular equipment)." An amazing feat for a non-technical company, especially one that was birthed from such meager beginnings but now has $2bn (£1.3bn) in turnover and $200m annual profit.

In a BBC interview Altrad said that he sleeps less than 4 hours a night. He doesn't know why; however from the outside looking in, it is because of this drive and creativity that he is a prolific businessman and a successful writer who has two books in publication. One which is autobiographical and the other which is read in schools across France. Between the two he has sold millions of copies.

In a time when xenophobia is at its height both in Europe where illegal African immigrants arrive daily, or in America where people like the Republican candidate Donald Trump espouse hatred and vitriol toward Mexican immigrants and garners a large following; Mr. Altrad is a shinning example of what it truly means to be an immigrant. A citizen who uses their culture and history to enrich the society into which they assimilate, and as a consequence makes the country stronger and better because of their tenacity, vision, and drive to succeed despite all odds.

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: @ ayannanahmias
LINKEDIN: Ayanna Nahmias