Foreign Policy‘s VOICE on Europe’s Future will be decided in North Africa elaborates on mainly the potential impact of Algeria’s current political instability on not only the region but also on the European Union.
Meanwhile, today July 19, 2019, is the twenty-second Friday of street demonstrations, were it not coincidentally for the Africa Cup of football happening the same day in the evening. Street demonstrations in all towns and villages of Algeria have become by now a sort of run of the mill. They are chasing a fundamental change of regime and not some epidermic exercise.
The United States should stop treating the region
as secondary to the rest of the Middle East.
When I first came to Washington in the
1990s, people who worked on North Africa were few and far between. It was
considered a backwater; no one ever came to Washington to solve the Western
Instead, U.S. foreign-policy strivers
made their way to the Beltway to ensure the security of the Persian Gulf’s
shipping lanes, to write cheesy lines about the appropriateness of Wahhabism’s
austere creed arising from such a harsh landscape, and to chase the whitest of
white whales—peace between Israelis and Palestinians. It is a narrow view of
the region that continues today, which is unfortunate because North Africa is
far more important to U.S. interests than the Middle East obsessions—old and
new—of the policy community.
A long look at the map will tell you
almost everything one needs to know about North Africa and its importance to a
core American interest—the stability and security of Europe. Of course,
the region is important to the millions of people who call it home, but their
neighbors across the Mediterranean Sea have long been and will continue to be a
focus of U.S. foreign policy. There are only 146 miles separating the Tunisian
coast and the Italian coast and 286 miles from Libya to Greece. Algeria’s
beaches are 469 miles from those of France—about the distance from Washington
to Charleston, South Carolina. Morocco and Spain are separated by a mere 9
miles. Proximity and colonial legacies have shaped the region in such a way
that at least the northern rim of the Maghreb seems to share more culturally
with Southern Europe than it does with sub-Saharan Africa. Add to this Europe’s
economic pull, a steady flow of migrants from African countries, a bevy of
extremist groups, and copious energy resources.
It would be an exaggeration to suggest
that as goes North Africa so goes Europe but not by much. The United States
still has a compelling interest in a Europe that, in the words of the late
George H.W. Bush, is “whole and free.” And among policymakers in Washington,
there is increasing concern about Europe’s vulnerability because so much of its
natural gas comes from Russia. But 11 percent comes from Algeria. That might
not sound like a lot, but some individual European countries are more
vulnerable than others. Spain, for example, gets 52 percent of its natural gas
from Algeria. The North African giant is also Italy’s second-largest gas
supplier. If Algeria descended into violence—not out of the realm of
possibility—and its gas supplies were somehow disrupted, Europe would have a
If Algeria descended into violence—not out of the
realm of possibility—and its gas supplies were somehow disrupted, Europe would
have a significant problem.
Could the continent make up the difference
from other sources? Libya has a lot of gas, but it is in the midst of a civil
war. Egypt also has tremendous amounts of gas, but it doesn’t have the capacity
yet to make up any shortfalls that Europe might experience. The Israelis would
love to sell gas to Europe, but the pipeline to Europe they envision may not be
Then there is migration, an issue that
has vexed Europe’s leaders, caught as they are between the European Union’s
liberal cosmopolitanism and a virulent nationalism that a united, democratic,
and prosperous continent was supposed to make irrelevant. Of course, migrants
arriving on European shores via North Africa did not create Europe’s right-wing
nationalist and neo-fascist parties, but they did give them a boost—and the
effect on Europe has been devastating. Setting aside developments in Austria,
Hungary, and Poland, the leaders of the Brexit campaign and the Alternative for
Germany (a far-right party) fed off Europe’s migration crisis in 2015 to
advance their ruinous and dangerous agendas. The destabilization of the United
Kingdom and the prospect of German political polarization are deeply troubling
and a strategic setback for the United States. If Washington has a true partner
in this world, it has been London. Meanwhile, a successful, democratic Germany
is a bedrock of European stability and prosperity.
For almost two decades, Washington’s
focus has been on combating al Qaeda and then the Islamic State in Afghanistan,
Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. Extremism in North Africa seems to be an afterthought. It
should not be. Algeria, Libya, and Tunisia all have terrorism problems
that have affected Europe in frightening ways.
Algeria, Libya, and Tunisia all have terrorism
problems that have affected Europe in frightening ways.
In the 1990s, Algerian extremists bombed the
Paris metro and hijacked an Air France flight in an attempt to force the crew
to fly the plane into the Eiffel Tower. More recent terrorist attacks in Europe
have been homegrown affairs, but that does not mean that Europe is safe from
North African extremism. In Tunisia in 2015, extremists killed European
tourists on a beach and in a museum. That is why the French have thrown their
lot in with would-be Libyan strongman Gen. Khalifa Haftar—he promises to kill a
lot of bad guys. President Emmanuel Macron may be wrong in his assessment of
Haftar’s capabilities, and French policy may be making things worse, but his
sense of where the threat comes from is clear. Algeria and Libya are huge
countries that border Chad, Mali, and Niger, which are themselves confronting
extremist violence. The prospect of groups linking up or merging in this region
is a significant security challenge for Europeans.
Finally, it is not just North Africa’s
old colonial powers—France and Italy—that are active there. Russia has a
long-standing defense relationship with Algeria, but it has also become more
active in Libya. It should be clear by now that President Vladimir Putin wants
to weaken and divide Europe. He has already forged an arc of Russian influence
around the Mediterranean, stretching from Ankara in the north, through Damascus
and Cairo, and then heading west from there into Benghazi. The latter is in
Haftar’s territory and the part of Libya where the bulk of the country’s oil
reserves are located. Putin doesn’t need to collect allies at the expense of
the United States per se—he just needs to give Russia a base from which he can
continue to sow discord and confusion in Europe.
Given how energy, migration, extremism,
and Russia’s ambition coincide in North Africa to threaten European stability,
it does not seem wise for U.S. policymakers to continue to treat the region as
an afterthought. Peace between Israelis and Palestinians, as well as democracy
in the Middle East, would be nice, but given the limits of American power, it
makes more sense to devote Washington’s resources to places that matter more to
U.S. interests. And North Africa matters. If you don’t believe me, look at a
The regional powers’s attempts to co-opt the Syrian tribes will only deepen the war-torn country’s divisions by creating rivalries between them sustains Haian Dukhan of University of Leicester per the following article.
Syria: attempts by Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey to co-opt Arab tribes in Syria will deepen the country’s divisions
Saudi Arabia is putting renewed pressure on its ties with tribal groups in Syria as it continues to support those trying to topple the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
In a visit in late June to Syrian territories controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance fighting against the Assad regime, the Saudi minister for Gulf affairs, Thamer Al-Sabhan, met with representatives of Arab tribes in Deir Ezzor, one of Syria’s most heavily tribal areas. He asked them to help the SDF maintain stability and security in their territories.
Arab tribes represent 20% of Syrian society and are particularly focused in the east of the country. But this area is currently divided: territory east of the Euphrates river is controlled by the SDF, which includes the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, while much of the territory west of the river is governed by the Syrian regime.
Saudi Arabia’s rivals in the region are also trying to use their ties with Syrian tribes for their own ends. Although Iran and Turkey don’t have the same kinship ties that Saudi tribes do with the Syrian tribes, both countries have been working since the beginning of the Syrian conflict to create new ties with them. Their aim is to use the tribes to further their interests in Syria – toppling the Assad regime in the case of Turkey and propping it up in the case of Iran.
But these attempts to co-opt the Syrian tribes will only deepen the war-torn country’s divisions by creating rivalries between them.
In the Syrian context, tribes refer to local groups of people that live geographically close to each other. They are distinct from other segments of Syrian society by having extended kinship ties, tribal customs and tribal leaders, or sheikhs. Some of Syria’s most prominent tribes are Aqaydate, Baggara and Busha’ban.
During the rule of Hafez al-Assad, Bashar’s father, between 1970 and 2000, tribes were part of the rural coalition that enabled the regime to preserve power. But Bashar al-Assad’s neo-liberal policies, such as lifting subsidies on livestock fodder and other agricultural products, accompanied by severe drought in 2003 changed the power dynamic and the tribes revolted against the regime in 2011.
The 2011 uprising in Syria was a golden opportunity for Saudi Arabia to use its links with the Syrian tribes to destroy the Assad regime and so eliminate growing Iranian influence in the country, which it considers its sphere of influence.
Since the uprising, Saudi Arabia has used tribal networks to provide financial and military support to the armed opposition against Assad. It also encouraged tribal sheikhs to defect from the Syrian regime, promising to provide them with refuge and financial aid. This led to the defection of more than 20 Syrian tribal leaders, who took refuge in Saudi Arabia.
Iran tried its own tactics to woo Syria’s Arab tribes. Iranian officials continue to invite Syrian tribal leaders to visit Tehran for talks in an effort to persuade them to remain loyal to Assad. These visits are covered by Iranian and Syrian state media, which portray the visiting sheikhs as important national figures.
Iran has spent large amounts of money and expertise on training militias of the Tay and the Sheitat tribes to fight alongside the Syrian regime forces. Iranian missionary groups have also been working to convert people from the Baggara tribe in Deir Ezzor from the Sunni to the Shia branch of Islam, in order to counterbalance the power of the Sunni Aqaydate tribe that has strong kinship ties to Saudi Arabia.
A counter balance to Turkey and Qatar
The rift between Saudi Arabia and Turkey took place after the Arab Spring and intensified after Turkey decided to back Qatar, offering it economic and military aid to help overcome a blockade by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Since around 2013, the competition between these two regional hegemons moved to Syria.
Turkey aims to use the Arab tribes in Turkey to legitimise its intervention against the SDF, and in particular its Kurdish forces, in the area to east of the Euphrates. Ultimately, it wants to have Arab fighters alongside its own army on Syrian soil. In a February 2018 visit to Urfa, a town close to the Turkish-Syrian border, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, met with Syrian tribal leaders who praised Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch against SDF forces in the Afrin district.
But Saudi Arabia considers the area to the east of the Euphrates river in Syria to be within its sphere of influence and will do whatever is possible to prevent it from falling under Turkish control. The Saudis are using financial aid to stabilise the SDF’s rule and decrease some of the tension between the SDF and Arab tribes.
But these attempts to co-opt the tribes by regional powers will only deepen Syria’s divisions. Many tribes have been split into competing clans that are fighting each other just because they find themselves to the east or west of the Euphrates.
Instead of trying to look for tribes who can serve their interests in Syria, Saudia Arabia, Iran and Turkey should support initiatives that foster a shared national identity for all Syrians.
Actions by individuals and businesses, such as improving energy efficiency in the home or office, make a difference.
The role of technology in keeping climate catastrophe at bay is becoming ever more critical. The resurgence of protests around the world such as the civil havoc wreaked by Extinction Rebellion or the school strikes begun by Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg has renewed pressure on governments to “do something”, no matter how unrealistic or economically ruinous.
The individual and political solutions usually meant by “doing something” are not as straightforward as they sound and may actually create more difficulties than they solve. Actions by individuals and businesses, such as improving energy efficiency in the home or office, make a difference, but this is still a drop in the ocean when put up against the output of the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases. They are also a bit hit-and-miss. Many of us are happy to do our bit of recycling or to stop the tap running while we brush our teeth, but how many of us are prepared never to fly again or to take up a vegan diet?
Similarly, swingeing political solutions such as carbon and fuel taxes can jolly things along, but such taxes inevitably hit the poor hardest and contribute to their own political unrest, as seen with the Yellow Vest movement in France, which could backfire by encouraging the election of more climate-sceptic leaders such as Donald Trump.
Technology presents only opportunities Yet where individual and political solutions pose their own problems, the technological approach presents only opportunities. The growing recognition of the essential role played by green technology is highlighted by the fact that the World Green Economy Summit held in Dubai last year included a discussion on the role of technology in the green economy, this year it will be the summit’s overarching theme.
One example of the win-win nature of technological solutions to green issues is renewable energy. In its early days, renewables were seen by many as nothing more than a way for governments to spend taxpayers’ money on switching to more expensive energy. But we hung in there and the fruits are beginning to show. Prices of renewables, particularly solar, are through better technology being brought to a point where not only do they no longer require public subsidy, but turn a profit enough that they become an attractive business proposition.
Much still to be done Still, despite renewable power having accounted for 70 percent of net additions to global power generating capacity in 2017, greenhouse gas emissions edged higher that year nonetheless, showing there is still much work to be done. The main laggards were the heating, cooling and transport sectors, which account for about 80 percent of global energy demand.
This shows that although technological breakthroughs in areas such as renewable energy can have a win-win impact – reduced emissions and cheaper energy – the road ahead isn’t easy. For example, if there is a greater take-up of electric cars this might cause oil prices to fall, which in turn could increase demand from the aviation sector that would push up emissions.
Despite advances in green technology such as the smart grid, electric vehicles, bioplastics, carbon capture and storage, green computers and green packaging, some critics insist that these advances are not nearly enough. They say that although we have been led by some of the modern world’s amazing inventions into believing that technology can achieve anything that simply isn’t true. They contend that future advances in green technology cannot be blindly relied upon to save the planet, and that essential breakthroughs such as improved battery efficiency in electric vehicles may still be a long way off.
Technology predicted to potentially cut emissions by 64 percent by 2050 But if there are problems with green technology, they are considerably less than those created by a purely political approach, which will inevitably lead to punitive, and polarising, taxes. Governments would do better to ease the path for innovative firms and startups through funding and supportive legislation so they can find the myriad solutions that will be needed to meet or go beyond the carbon targets of the Paris Agreement. ING in a report issued last year predicted that such an approach could result in a 64 percent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
To conclude, while the political pressure intensifies to enact all sorts of rash and damaging ecological measures, it is best to keep our heads and do all we can to back and push forward the technological innovations that may not just combat climate change, but do so while strengthening the global economy.
“We all need to work together to nurture a habitable planet for future generations and to play our part in building a greener and cleaner future for all.” by Jessica Corbett, staff writer.
More than 7,000 colleges and universities across the globe declared a climate emergency on Wednesday and unveiled a three-point plan to collectively commit to addressing the crisis.
“Young people around the world feel that schools, colleges, and universities have been too slow to react to the crisis that is now bearing down on us.” —Charlotte Bonner, SOS
The declaration came in a letter—which other education institutions are encouraged to sign—that was organized by the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC), U.S.-based higher education climate action organization Second Nature, and U.N. Environment Program’s (UNEP) Youth and Education Alliance.
The letter, according to a statement from organizers, “marks the first time further and higher education establishments have come together to make a collective commitment to address the climate emergency,” and outlines the three-point plan:
Committing to going carbon neutral by 2030 or 2050 at the very latest;
Mobilizing more resources for action-oriented climate change research and skills creation; and
Increasing the delivery of environmental and sustainability education across curricula, campus, and community outreach programs.
“The young minds that are shaped by our institutions must be equipped with the knowledge, skills, and capability to respond to the ever-growing challenges of climate change,” the letter says. “We all need to work together to nurture a habitable planet for future generations and to play our part in building a greener and cleaner future for all.”
The letter, which calls on other institutions and governments to declare a climate emergency and pursue urgent action to combat it, was presented at a Wednesday eventhosted by the Higher Education Sustainability Initiative—a partnership of various United Nations agencies—at U.N. headquarters in New York City.
“The expectation is that over 10,000 institutions of higher and further education will come on board before the end of the 2019, with governments invited to support their leadership with incentives to take action,” said the organizers’ statement. So far, the letter has been signed by 25 networks that represent approximately 7,050 institutions and 59 individual institutions that, combined, have about 652,000 students.
The individual institutions that have joined the declaration include five in the continental United States and two in Puerto Rico as well as colleges and universities in Argentina, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, France, Germany, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Kenya, Kuwait, Mauritius, Mexico, Nigeria, Panama, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Uganda, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and Venezuela.
“Young people are increasingly at the forefront of calls for more action on climate and environmental challenges. Initiatives which directly involve the youth in this critical work are a valuable contribution to achieving environmental sustainability.” —Inger Andersen, UNEP
“What we teach shapes the future. We welcome this commitment from universities to go climate neutral by 2030 and to scale-up their efforts on campus,” said UNEP executive director Inger Andersen. “Young people are increasingly at the forefront of calls for more action on climate and environmental challenges. Initiatives which directly involve the youth in this critical work are a valuable contribution to achieving environmental sustainability.”
The declaration follows months of students—from all levels of education—taking to the streets around the world as part of the school strike for climate movement, which calls on governments and powerful institutions to pursue bolder policies targeting the human-caused climate crisis.
Praising the college and universities’ letter on Wednesday, Charlotte Bonner of Students Organizing for Sustainability (SOS) said that “young people around the world feel that schools, colleges, and universities have been too slow to react to the crisis that is now bearing down on us.”
“We welcome the news that they are declaring a climate emergency, we have no time to lose,” Bronner added. “We will be calling on those who haven’t yet supported this initiative, to come on board. Of course, the most important element is the action that follows.”
As Climate change could cause 29% spike in cereal prices: leaked UN report, because Food supply chains will get disrupted globally, the study warns. Report to be officially released in August informs Nitin Sethi, of New Delhi in this article of Business Standard.
As far as the MENA region is concerned, food has always been in short supply, but does this mean it would get worse.
The report will be put before all member countries of the UN Framework Convention and once it gets their stamp of approval by consensus it will be made public on August 8. Photo: Representative Image
“The rate and geographic extent of global land and freshwater resources over recent decades is unprecedented in human history,” a report authored by UN’s panel of scientists from across the world on climate change is set to inform. Business Standard reviewed a leaked copy of the draft report sent to the governments of 197 countries. The report warns that as the global temperatures rise, the stress on land resources and its productivity is set to rise.
The report by the UN Inter-governmental panel on climate change, is called, “IPCC Special Report on Climate Change, Desertification, Land Degradation, Sustainable Land Management, Food Security, and Greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems.”
The report will be put before all member countries of the UN Framework Convention and once it gets their stamp of approval by consensus it will be made public on August 8.
The authors of the report, gleaning through state-of-art science research have concluded that, “Observed climate change is already affecting the four pillars of food security – availability, access, utilization, and stability – through increased temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, and greater frequency of some extreme events.”
Continuing climate change is expected to further “create additional stresses on land systems exacerbating risks related to desertification, land degradation and food security,” the report says.
In a significant finding for countries such as India, the authors say, at global warming of 2° Celsius, the population of drylands exposed and vulnerable to water stress, increased drought intensity and habitat degradation could be as high as 522 million. Scientists conclude that at current levels of greenhouse gas emission reductions committed by the countries under Paris Agreement there is a good likelihood for the planet to breach the 2° Celsius temperature rise barrier.
“In drylands, desertification and climate change are projected to cause further reduction in crop and livestock productivity, modify the composition of plant species and reduce biological diversity,” research endorsed by the scientific panel shows.
Half of the vulnerable population due to the climate-change induced aridity would be in South Asia. The degradation of land due to climate change is already leading to consequent shaving off of the global economy, the scientific panel notes. “There are increasingly negative effects on GDP from impacts on land-based values and ecosystem service as temperature increases,” the report says. But, it notes that, at the regional level, the impacts would vary. “Compound extreme events, such as a heat wave within a drought or drought followed by extreme rainfall, will decrease gross primary productivity of lands, the authors warn
The impact on agriculture in higher latitudes is recorded to be different than in lower ones, such as one covering India. “Increasing temperature are affecting agricultural productivity in higher latitudes, raising yields of some crops such as maize, cotton, wheat, sugar beets, while in lower-latitude regions yields of crops such as maize, wheat and barley are declining.
Modelling results, that the scientific panel reviewed, show that cereal prices could rise by up to 29 per cent in 2050 due to climate change, which would impact consumers globally through higher food prices, though the impact would vary by regions. The stability of food supply is expected to decrease as the magnitude and frequency of extreme events caused by climate change increases, disrupting food chains globally.
The increase in global temperatures and consequent climate change is already affecting the productivity of livestock, which is one a main-stay of Indian rural economy. The authors conclude, “Observed impacts in pastoral systems include pasture declines, lower animal growth rates and productivity, damaged reproductive functions, increased pests and diseases, and loss of biodiversity.”
At the same time coastal economies are already suffering an impact as well. “Coastal erosion is affecting new regions as a result of interacting human drivers and climate change such as sea-level rise and impacts of changing cyclone paths,” though the scientists hold a low level confidence in the scientific research that concludes the impact of climate change on cyclone paths.
Israel’s 12-year blockade of the territory has accelerated this trend of Gaza’s crafts industries fast disappearing at a time when normal life seemed ever more difficult to bring back onto its streets. Decades in the besieged enclave, have somehow allowed stores to be reopened, students to head back to schools, and people generally resuming work. This article of Gulf News dated July 10, illustrates fairly well the particular situation of the strip today.
Gaza City, Gaza Strip: When Gazans think of better economic times, images of clay pottery, colorful glassware, bamboo furniture and ancient frame looms weaving bright rugs and mats all come to mind. For decades, these traditional crafts defined the economy of the coastal Palestinian enclave, employing thousands of people and exporting across the region. Today, the industries are almost non-existent.
While such professions have shrunk worldwide in the face of globalisation and Chinese mass production, Gazan business owners say Israel’s 12-year blockade has accelerated the trend. “We have been economically damaged. We are staying, but things are really difficult,” said Abed Abu Sido, one of Gaza’s last glassmakers, as he flipped through a glossy catalogue of his products.
At his quiet workshop, layers of dust covered the few remaining glass artifacts, requiring him to scrub them to reveal their colours. Cardboard boxes of unfinished products and materials were stacked floor-to-ceiling.
Abu Sido opened his business in the 1980s, selling many of his items to vendors in the popular marketplace of Jerusalem’s Old City. In his heyday, he said he took part in exhibitions in Europe. That changed after 2007, when the Hamas militant group overran Gaza, and Israel and Egypt responded by sealing Gaza’s borders. Abu Sido laid off his 15 workers and ceased operations the following year.
Israel says the blockade is needed to contain Hamas and prevent it from arming. But the closure, repeated rounds of fighting with Israel and a power struggle with the rival Palestinian Authority in the West Bank have hit Gaza hard.