Qatar: Conciliators, Regional Superpower, or Simply Another Wealthy Arab Nation?

sheikh tamim bin hamad al-thani amir of qatar e-u. high representative for foreign and security policy and Vice president of the european commission catherine ashton in doha, qatar

sheikh tamim bin hamad al-thani amir of qatar e-u. high representative for foreign and security policy and Vice president of the european commission catherine ashton in doha, qatar

DOHA, Qatar - An internationally renowned nation which was once known only for its pearl-fishing has become a major global player. Pumping out nearly 2.3 millions of barrels of natural gas a day which gets shipped around the globe as LNG, it is in the top 25 producers of oil and gas. (Source: Forbes) 

Unfortunately, it is also currently at the center of the FIFA scandal that is reverberating around the world, yet this is not the topic of discussion here.

In the 1940s the nascent country’s oil and gas industry was developed by Western nations as they continued to implement colonization strategies that included primary control of natural resources. This all changed in the 1990s when Qatar exercised greater control of the profits from its oil and gas industry thus transforming it into one of richest countries in the Emirates.

The government recognizes that shifting from a major global supplier of oil and gas will be a long and somewhat protracted process. But, the proactive open-market policies being instituted by the government is helping Qatar to become both a major financial hub in additional to a luxury tourist destination. At the start of 2015, Qatar’s economy was ranked a score of 70.8 according to the data tracked, which means that it is the 32nd most investor friendly economies in the world. With this type of recognition comes the ability to not only exert influence, but also encourages criticism as in the case of allegations of impropriety with the award to host the 2022 World Cup soccer games to Qatar.

Owing to economic diversification, investors from different parts of the world have taken a keen interest in doing business with the country as well as establishing corporate headquarters. The ramping up of foreign investments in infrastructure, finance and banking, products and services, etc. being delivered by these foreign corporations prognosticates some excellent job opportunities in Qatar, and is one of the main reasons that it was chosen as a host country for the games.

Qatar is often regarded as a study in contradictions and is known to be significantly more liberal than many of its neighbors. Apart from Saudi Arabia, the state of Qatar is the only Middle Eastern nation to adopt Wahhabism as its official state religion. The religious demographics in Qatar seem to support both the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood and the militant Hamas movement, and the internecine conflict between the two is quite complex and sometimes terrifying. At the moment the ‘tug of war’ raging inside the Muslim world consists of two sides. The Salafi jihadis―or hardcore Wahhabis, who are financed and supported by Saudi Arabia versus the Muslim Brotherhood who are supported by Qatar on the other.

For years Qatar has been supporting and propagating the Muslim Brotherhood's agenda in different parts of the Middle East and North Africa through its Al Jazeera television network. Though this may seem partisan at first glance, history reveals a more nuanced story, one in which Qatar has maintained a very diplomatic approach towards an increasingly global religious dilemma. Qatar's ability to act as arbiter and play the role of conciliator was demonstrated in its role in achieving the 2008 ceasefire in Lebanon according to the online news site Asharq Al-Awsat.

Unfortunately, the world’s eyes are trained upon Syria and the tragedies that are occurring within its borders, and though Qataris are working behind the political scene to help support Syrians to establish a post-Bashar Hafez al-Assad governance, these efforts toward stabilization are not obviously visible. As with much that occurs in negotiations, what is seen in the public eye is rarely what occurs behind the scenes, and in this context Qatar always positions itself to ensure that its interests are preserved. One of the main motives and interest in facilitating peace in Syria is the hope that a more moderate form of Islam will prevail in a new Syria, and if successful, may help to garner a bigger seat at the table of powerful Arab nations.

The initiatives taken thus far reflect Qatar’s desire to continue in its role as conciliator in the global economic and religious amphitheater. Qatar hopes that by making greater strides with this goal through an open job market, flexibility in accepting the customs of foreigners within limits of decorum, and negotiating for an air of tolerance, balance, and acceptance will ultimately serve to change external perceptions. From the highest levels of government to the ordinary Qataris, there exists a desire to be counted amongst the most developed and advanced countries in the world, and thus the nation hopes to break the stigma of mistrust and judgment that plagues almost every Muslim nation today.

Middle East Correspondent:  @Vinita Tiwari

Does Middle East Harbour Fears of Oil Drying Up?

oil-capital-photo-by-wolfgang-schlegl.jpg

MIDDLE EAST - Will the world soon experience a major oil and gas crunch? Many global countries are gradually becoming self-dependent and planning to adopt new drilling technologies in the hope of discovering their own oil reserves. The Middle East, which has long maintained its stature as the world’s largest oil exporter, now feels great pressure. Someday the oil reserve will dry up under the burden of consumption of a vast volume of barrels of crude oil per day.

Governments and those involved in framing policies in the Middle East are now aware that the world’s oil fields are depleting at a rate of 9.1% per year, which is terrifying. It has been reported that if nothing is done to overcome the threat, then oil production could fall 38% in only five years. A recent report in the Guardian revealed that conventional sources of oil are expected to continue to decline and future oil demands will need to be satiated through more unconventional resources.

This is a matter that requires immediate attention for most of the oil producing nations in the Middle East. What if the economic highs created by the precious oil drop down to nothing? This very fear has brought economic diversification to the center stage. The only saving grace that can protect the global population from experiencing this painful outcome is to introduce a diversification strategy.

The concept of economic diversification is to improve the GDP. Economic diversification is a process that generates a growing range of economic outputs. This diversifies the markets for exports or income sources outside of domestic economic activities (i.e. income from overseas investment). The Middle East and its constituting nations have adopted the concept, where previously they were characterized by the lack of it.

Other sectors will now stand with pride and make their own contributions to the GDP and thus lead to a flourishing fiscal health. At the moment, private sectors are the first visible output of the economic divergence protocol.

Price and demand are two of the most important aspects of the global economic system and fiscal diversification is one way to escape the complex phenomenon. Countries and their respective economic systems are experiencing problems such as low growth rates, lack of public and private incentives to accumulate human capital, lack of competition in manufacturing, and similar problems. This is something that has coaxed the countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council to opt for economic diversification.

Economic diversification can reduce a nation’s economic volatility and increase its real activity performance. With oil consumption going up at a very steep rate, diversification is something that can pacify the fear in the Middle East associated with its diminishing oil reserve.

The answer lies in the relationship between fiscal divergence and private sector economic reforms. The theory suggests that diversification will help increase the private sector and will lower the contribution of the public sector to a certain level. One of the reasons for more private sector involvement is that a part of economic divergence relates to the issue of the foreign direct investments. A report from LSE suggests FDIs can bring in capital, create new jobs for people living in the Middle East, encourage development of new technology, and formulate management methods. These will help the countries build and expand their societies and knowledge communities.

It can safely be said that the potential of the Middle Eastern nations to attract FDI is severely limited without a well-functioning private sector. The growth of the private sector in the overall GCC economy has not only brought a fresh breath of air but has also created ripples in the employment market as a whole. The premise is simple: Take the revenue from oil and gas and invest it in other budding industries and sectors.

The expectation of fiscal diversification is freedom from the monopoly of oil and gas revenue on the GDP, and newcomers entering the economic arena. The Gulf would soon be relieved from the fear of depleting oil reserves and could still manage the country with a growing private sector. There would be well-paying jobs in the Middle East and the standard of living would still be maintained.

Follow Vinita on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Middle East Correspondent: @vinita1204

Related articles

Changing Egypt: Nine Men Convicted of Sexual Assaults

anti-sexual harassment anti-police failures demo, press syndicate photo by hossam el- amalawy

anti-sexual harassment anti-police failures demo, press syndicate photo by hossam el- amalawy

CAIRO, Egypt — A Thomson Reuters Foundation survey last year showed that Egypt has been the worst Arab country for women. A swell of gang rapes, sexual harassment, female genital mutilation, and other crimes against women have been on the rise since the Arab Spring.

In President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s continued efforts to combat the high incidence of sexual assaults in Egypt, Wednesday an Egyptian judge convicted nine men of committing sexual assaults. The men, ages 16-49, received extensive sentences ranging from 20-years to life in prison, reported the state-run newspaper al-Ahram.

The Guardian reports that 250 sexual assaults have been documented since the Tahrir riots in 2011, for the first time they resulted in a police investigation and the president visiting with a victim. The arrests of the men were made in response to the country’s new law that more thoroughly defined sexual assault and imposed stricter penalties. As some of the most severe sexual assault sentences the country has seen, it shows the country’s dedication to cracking down on the crime.

Seven of the nine men have been sentenced to life in prison. In addition to sexual assault they were all charged with and of attempted rape, attempted murder and torture, according to Reuters. They also reported that these are the longest sentences for sexual assaults that Egypt has since President Sisi's campaign to criminalize sexual assaults.

As is customary in Egyptian courts, the accused men stood in cages while the verdicts were read to them. Reuters reported that when the verdicts were delivered the convicted men shouted "injustice" as their relatives supposedly attacked journalists. It was also said that a woman involved in one of the case began to cry out of relief upon hearing the verdicts.

Some question if the sentencing was too harsh for the crime. The 16-year-old defendant received a 20-year prison sentence and a 19-year-old defendant received two 20-year terms of imprisonment. A prominent Egyptian activist and lawyer Gamal Eid told Reuters, “This ruling gives a strong message to all harassers that their actions are no longer tolerated or accepted ... But the ruling on the teenagers was a bit harsh and could have been reduced.” But, Nashaat Agha, a lawyer for one of the victims defended the rulings saying, “This verdict is pure justice and the least that those people can get for the crimes they committed.”

The majority of the assaults happened in June during street celebrations of the inauguration of President Sisi. Most other reported assaults also happened at mass celebrations. One of the men sentenced to life received separate charges of attacking women. He assaulted women at only a celebration for the inauguration of President Sisi, and also at a celebration for the anniversary of the overthrow of despotic president Hosni Mubarak in 2011. With the upcoming celebrations for the end of Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr, it will test if these convictions can deter sexual assaults.

However, legislating against sexual assaults has yet to transform the public perception of the crime. Dalia Abd el-Hameed, a co-founder of Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment, a movement that combats gang sexual assaults believes that the social view of sexual assaults is most important saying to The New York Times, "The most important thing is the social component," she said. "If something is criminalized by law, but society accepts it, it will continue happening."

The government is taking special action to change people's attitude towards sexual assault in addition to the newly adopted laws. It was reported by The Guardian that officials proposed rewarding screenwriters who produce "female-friendly television shows". Also, they reported that a female television presenter was suspended after she mockingly laughed at Tahrir victims when they were brought up by her co-presenter. She defended the attackers saying they were just "happy", according to Reuters.

That being said, the governmental action being taken against sexual offenders in Egypt is confronting their overlooked sexual assault issue. El-Hameed told The New York Times she believed that the sentences are a “good step to end the state of impunity that perpetrators enjoyed.”

Follow Allyson on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Journalist: @allysoncwright

Related articles

What the Election of Sisi Means for Egypt

Abdul Fattah el-Sisi

Abdul Fattah el-Sisi

CAIRO, Egypt—In a landslide victory, former military chief Abdul Fattah el-Sisi won the 2014 presidential election in Egypt on Thursday. However, his win is sparking concern for Egyptians who question what will become of the country by reinstating military rule.

El-Sisi resigned from his position as the Egyptian military chief earlier this year in order to receive a presidential bid. The state media says that the polls showed Sisi won with ninety-three percent of the vote. Ahram Online reported a victory message was posted on Sisi’s official campaign Facebook page read, "The nation has put itself, with its great people's will, on the beginning of the right track and has stepped firmly and trustingly ... towards the future they've chosen."

The overwhelming support for Sisi in the polls does not necessarily reflect the country’s sentiments, however. It was predicted that there would be a voter turnout of only forty-six percent. Presidential Elections Commission member Tarek Shebi assessed the final voter turnout at forty-eight percent, according to Ahram Online.

Such low numbers of voter turnout, coupled with the high support for Sisi create skepticism for the legitimacy of the election.  It was reported by CNN that officials even added an extra day to vote, Wednesday, to promote voting, but the attempt proved fruitless. This election did not top the 2012 elections with almost fifty-two percent voter turnout, which does not help Sisi prove his legitimacy.

In addition to the skeptical numbers, the election was plagued with accusations of misconduct. The only opposition, Hamdeen Sabahi claims that his campaign representatives were arrested and attacked, according to CNN. Also, they said that Sisi’s campaign representatives were illegally allowed inside polling places. Allegations of forgery were also made.

The criticism of voter fraud and small voter turnout could be explained by voting boycotts from Sisi detractors. It is reported by BBC News that the Islamist group called the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as some liberal and secular activist groups, boycotted voting in the elections. BBC News also reported a senior member of the Brotherhood, Tariq al-Zumar, called the elections a "theatrical play which did not convince anybody".

Those that celebrate Sisi’s victory hope that his presidency will reverse the radical conservatism that the country saw under the previous presidency of Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Sisi-supporters see it as defeat of the Muslim Brotherhood whom the ousted Morsi was a member of.

Sisi has had a relentless response to removing the Muslim Brotherhood from Egypt. He is responsible for 16,000 detentions and 1,400 executions of Muslim Brotherhood members, according to BBC News. The group has since been declared a terrorist organization and banned from the country.

But, according to the numbers, there are supporters of Sisi. Al Jazeera says that most of his supporters are leftover Mubarak supporters, like former members of the regime and business people. Also, the Coptic Christians.

Despite the surrounding controversy, Hamdeen Sabahi, Sisi’s opposition, admits defeat. CNN reports Sabahi released the official statement conceding that said, "It is time to respect the people's choice and admit my loss."'

Contributing Journalist: @allysoncwright

A Political Façade | Egyptian Military Turns Against The People

ministry-of-defense-clashes-photo-by-jonathan-rashad.jpg

Michael Ransom, Senior CorrespondentLast Modified: 21:35 p.m. DST, 04 April 2014

Egyptian Protesters in Chicago, Photo Courtesy of MoMoNWICAIRO - In Egypt’s chaotic political climate, the most basic freedoms are granted one moment and abolished the next, not unlike the seasonal implementation and suspension of the nation’s Constitution.

The same Society of Muslim Brotherhood members that were freely elected into public office less than three years ago are now the subjects of mass incarceration and capital punishment under President Adly Mansour’s administration. And the vast demonstrations that yielded the nation’s first-ever public presidential election in 2012 are now being smothered by state security. Throughout the country, dissent is met with death.

Free speech, peaceful assembly and media protection are now privileges granted only at the convenience of Mansour and the military agenda that he serves. Diplomacy and debate have succumbed to totalitarian suppression. Following a short flirtation with democratic ideals, Egyptians are now subject to the classic tools of fear mongering.

Recent headlines out of Cairo mark the worst abuses to date. The Mansour ministry is responsible for over a thousand civilian deaths, hundreds of mass incarcerations without cause, the suppression and kidnapping of Al Jazeera reporters, unfair trials, and now new claims that some security agents routinely rape and beat jailed protestors. The international community is demanding transparency in the treatment of Egyptian prisoners.

News organizations within the transcontinental nation are reporting the use of rape and torture to intimidate dissenters. A student with suspected allegiance to the Muslim Brotherhood has been in police custody in Nasr since February. Since his capture, he has been beaten, tortured and raped by security agents, according to Al Jazeera. Young men and women are both targets of sexual abuse during detainment. This intolerable police brutality is an instrument used to silence this outspoken demographic. Student populations have become so mobilized in the aftermath of former President Mohamed Morsi’s removal that the government has now issued a ban on protests at universities.

For the young man who was raped and attacked by authorities, allegiance to the Muslim Brotherhood could carry a death sentence. Last month, 529 men were collectively charged with the killing of a one policeman. The group was found guilty in a proceeding that lasted only a few hours and offered no physical evidence against the individuals. Most were not afforded a defense team, but the lawyers present were unable to speak on their clients’ behalf. The judge sentenced the group to death. The unconscionable decision will likely be repeated when a group of over 600 alleged Brotherhood members stand trial in the coming weeks. Surely, the judicial action is nothing less than mass murder under the guise of democracy.

Objective observers are hard-pressed to find any evidence that the regional turmoil has spurred even baby-steps towards democracy. The reorganization is better described as a <em>do-si-do</em> maneuver, and while a few dancers retired and some others joined in, generally the Republic has returned to its original position on the international stage. Certainly, the political dance in Egypt has been lethal in the past three years.

Unlike Morsi, Mansour gained the presidential pedestal through the military intervention of Abdul Fattah el-Sisi, who was the Commander-in-Chief of Egypt until late last month. Longstanding poverty and ideological schisms could not be solved instantly, but many Egyptians celebrated the first free presidential election. Amidst fanatical disapproval of Morsi during his short stint in Cairo, el-Sisi issued a warning to the incumbent. The president had but two days to ease tensions and rally his countrymen and women together, or he would be driven out by any means necessary.

Advocates of Morsi and proponents of democracy would both agree that the new elect had already garnered the requisite support of his people just a year prior via the ballot boxes throughout Egypt’s 27 districts. Instead of implementing order in the streets according to his constitutional provisions, el-Sisi opted to suspend the constitution altogether. Since then, the mounting fears of unrest have been self-fulfilling, prompting violence between Egyptian neighbors and colleagues. The violence between clashing ideologies are secondary, however, to the totalitarian government’s crimes against humanity, which continue to concern watchdog groups such as Human Rights Watch.

In the final days of March, el-Sisi resigned from his Commander-in-Chief post and has declared his intention to run for the nation’s highest office in the upcoming 2014 election. El-Sisi’s efforts to separate his name from the current chaos will not go unnoticed. Should he be elected to the presidency in the future, certainly he would understand the fragile and temporary nature of the position. In the meantime, the international community will lobby to protect the Egyptian people and their democratic will.

Follow Michael on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Senior Correspondent: @MAndrewRansom

Libya Declares Gaddafi Rapes as War Crimes, Paving Way for Victim Compensation

muammar-gaddafi-photo-courtesy-of-adam-bearne.jpg

Jessamy Nichols, Africa CorrespondentLast Modified: 00:02 a.m. DST, 25 February 2014

Eman al-Obeidy, Libyan Woman Gang Raped by 15 Gaddafi Soldiers, Photo Courtesy of Libyan Rebel

When discussing tools of warfare, one tends to think of guns, tanks, espionage and bombs. Unfortunately though, the damaging and lasting elements of war go far beyond this list and are seldom given the attention they deserve.

For instance, rape has been utilized in war for hundreds, even thousands, of years, but since it's harder to monitor than death tolls, it commonly gets overlooked and goes unpunished.

Armies and rebel groups use it as a weapon to exert dominance, spread anarchy, and disturb the mentality of their opponents. This sad reality still happens across the globe during conflicts, especially in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where HearCongo.org says 40% of the DRC's female population has experienced rape.

In a huge stride to fight impunity for rape, Libya's cabinet has determined that rape victims from the 2011 uprising against Muammar Gaddafi should be recognized as war victims that are entitled to the same compensation. The legislation still needs congressional approval before it will be institutionalized and thus officially recognize rape victims as equals to wounded ex-fighters.

If passed, the women like Eman al-Obeidy who was raped over the course of 72-hours by 15-soldiers loyal to Gaddafi, will have access to measures that include financial assistance, and physical and psychological care. (Anderson Cooper 360 Interview with Obeidy)

This piece of legislation is especially impressive and groundbreaking because of Libya's staunch conservatism that causes rape to be a taboo topic. Setting an example in postwar recovery will not only allow hundreds of women to come forward, but will also exemplify to other countries that rape is a war crime worth discussing, confronting, and reconciling.

Women have deserved this recognition and solace for centuries, and its long overdue for civil society stakeholders and governments to ensure this respect for human dignity is carried out. After all, investing in a healthy and safe population provides for more stable and prosperous future.

Follow Jessamy on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Africa Correspondent: @JessamyNichols

Syria's Newest Tool of Torture

body-of-7-year-old-boy-killed-by-a-syrian-army-in-dar-al-shifa-hospital-in-aleppo-syria-photo-by-peacock-almntouf.jpg

Jessamy Nichols, Africa CorrespondentLast Modified: 12:42 p.m. DST, 19 February 2014

Dead Bodies Lie in Road in Retailiation for Rebel Killing of Soldier, Daraa Province, Aleppo, Syria, Photo by Peacock AlmntoufInternational partners worked for months in order to create a plan that would result in Assad ultimately handing over Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons. Although Western countries and Syria-supporting countries like Russia disagreed over many factors, they finally agreed to an agenda that would take away Assad and his troops’ ability to torture and murder civilians by way of chemical weapons.

The process has frustratingly been delayed at several points and Syria still shows signs of missing deadlines, but at least the regime seems to  have not used these weapons since the agreement.

However, leave it to the disturbing minds of Assad and his troops to devise another sickening and inhumane way of terrorizing rebels and citizens alike. To target the opposition-held Aleppo,  Assad’s troops have crafted barrel bombs that are oil drums packed with explosives and shrapnel, that they then dump out of the back of helicopters which will then destroy several-story buildings and all living things nearby. Their intense destruction has earned them the nickname “barrels of death”.

The use of these barrels of death over the past few weeks has resulted in Aleppo becoming a ghost town, where more and more people flee the city and whole neighborhoods are emptied. This has also increased the number of those in mass exodus out of Syria and into neighboring countries that are bursting at the seams with the influx of refugees.

The latest talks on Syria ended without progress or resolution, even though the sense of urgency mounts every day. Thousands of Syrian children have spent so long fleeing war and seeking refuge that they no longer know what peace and a sense of safety feel like. Their hope for a future is diminishing with every failed stakeholders meeting and with every crime against humanity that Assad is allowed to get away with. Take away his chemical weapons, and he creates aerial “barrels of death.” Unfortunately, this pattern of warfare will not end until conclusive and decisive action is brought down upon the regime.

Follow Jessamy on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Africa Correspondent: @JessamyNichols

Enhanced by Zemanta