Arabia and Iran could make peace and bring stability to the Middle East

Arabia and Iran could make peace and bring stability to the Middle East

How Saudi Arabia and Iran could make peace and bring stability to the Middle East, if it were up to them only, would not be an impossibility as clearly demonstrated here by Samira Nasirzadeh, Lancaster University and Eyad Alrefai, Lancaster University. It would in our opinion, be made even more reachable if both countries manage to transition off their hydrocarbon-based economies and into more diversified ones.

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Saudi and Iran: how our two countries could make peace and bring stability to the Middle East

Relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran have rarely been worse, regarding the attacks on the oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman – for which both sides blame each other. Nevertheless, in the history of relations between the two countries, there have been regular shifts between tension and rapprochement – and things can change for the better once again.

As an Iranian and a Saudi, working as research fellows for peace studies, we believe it is time that our two countries seek to manage the conflict, improve their dialogue and begin the peacebuilding process. And we are hopeful that this could happen.

But how? Peace cannot be achieved overnight; it requires a range of factors to strengthen diplomatic ties and decrease the level of enmity between the two states. First, we suggest both states’ politicians soften the language in their speeches, altering the hostile rhetoric to a more moderate one. This would open new paths towards a direct and constructive dialogue, reducing the tensions that are affecting the two countries, the region and, potentially, the world.

Sabre-rattling

Direct dialogue between the two regional actors could launch negotiations that may lead to more stability in the region. The existing regional turmoil has had a detrimental impact on relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran over Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Bahrain and Yemen. The [Yemen war], which has caused a [dramatic humanitarian crisis], remains one of the main areas of conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran, but it also offers ground for talks between the two states.

Both Saudi Arabia and Iran agree that the conflicts in Yemen and Syria can only be ended through the implementation of political, rather than military, solutions. If Saudi Arabia and Iran can take steps toward political compromises in Syria and Yemen, this subsequently will reflect positively on the trust building process.

Finding a peaceful solution in the region requires Iran and Saudi to start talking positively. Shutterstock

While Saudi Arabia relies on its strategic Western allies and its ever-increasing military expenditure, Iran, which has been isolated by the US, prefers a more regional approach. Indeed, Saudi Arabia may have to ignore US protests to sit down at the negotiating table with Iran.

But the will for closer ties is, perhaps, there. Indeed, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, declared on March 13, 2018:

We believe that security of our neighbours is our security and stability within our neighbourhood is our stability. I hope they [Saudi Arabia] have the same feeling and I hope that they come to talks with us for resolving these problems. There is no reason for hostility between Iran and Saudi Arabia. However, we tell the Saudis that you cannot provide security from outside of the region.

Adel Al-Jubeir, the Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs, also recently stated in an interview that his country “does not want war with Iran, but will not tolerate what it considers hostile Iranian activity in the Middle East”.

Suspicions clearly remain, but such pronouncements could be viewed as a pause in hostilities, a turning point that could bring both sides closer together to resolve tensions.

There are also domestic reasons for a reduction in tensions, with both states building strategic plans for the future. Since 2015, Saudi Arabia has embarked on an ambitious socioeconomic plan to diversify the country’s economy by curbing its historic dependency on oil and challenging conservative social constructs and norms by unshackling society from some past constraints. In a state where most of the population is under the age of 30, Vision 2030 serves as a mega project that will lead the country to modernise economically and socially.

The same goes for Iran. The country has adopted a promising strategic plan called the 20-Year National Vision of the Islamic Republic of Iran which has social, economic, and political objectives. But to be successfully implemented, both countries’ strategies will need stable societies and vibrant economies which cannot be attained in a hostile neighbourhood. Integration and cooperation will be essential.

Diplomacy is the solution

It is evident that Saudi Arabia and Iran will benefit more from direct dialogue than hostile rhetoric. Through discussing and working together on domestic, regional and international issues, it is in the interests of both states – and the wider region – to reduce conflict and increase cooperation through diplomatic ties.

The gradual shift from hostile to inclusive rhetoric by politicians is a helpful first step, but it is also necessary for Saudi and Iran to take practical action in their bilateral relationship.

It is expected for states to compete in their sphere of influence, but pragmatism must prevail if both countries want to put an end to their conflicts in the region.

Samira Nasirzadeh, PhD Research Fellow, Lancaster University and Eyad Alrefai, PhD Research Fellow, Lancaster University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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A New Way to Keep Buildings Cool

A New Way to Keep Buildings Cool

The MENA countries could quite happily do with what these researchers at Columbia University are developing, i.e. a new way to keep buildings cool. Here is a story narrated by Diana Madson.

Paint-like material inspired by a heat-tolerant desert Ant could keep buildings cool

It could one day reduce the need for air conditioning.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Researchers at Columbia University are working on a new way to keep buildings cool. They drew inspiration from an unlikely source: a heat-tolerant species of ant called the Saharan Silver Ant. It lives in the scorching desert.

Saharan silver ant

Yu: “They are only active in the middle of the day when the surface of the desert is the hottest.”

In 2015, physics professor Nanfang Yu discovered that this ant’s silvery coating of hair reflects sunlight and radiates heat back to the sky.

Now, he and his colleagues have developed a paint-like material that mimics these functions.

Yu: “So this coating doesn’t heat up under the Sun.”

When applied to a rooftop, it reflects up to ninety-nine per cent of sunlight and emits heat back to the atmosphere.

Yu says that helps cool the building underneath. And it does so far more effectively than white paint, which only reflects certain wavelengths of solar radiation.

If successful, this technology could help reduce the need for energy-intensive air conditioning. Click to Tweet

Yu: “If you put this coating on the top of the roof, that may translate into a saving of electricity in the summertime.”

He says more research and testing is needed before this technology is widely available. But if successful, it could help reduce the need for energy-intensive air conditioning.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Make your Linguistic Skills even more Powerful

Make your Linguistic Skills even more Powerful

If you’re reading this, you have quite a powerful language. There are 1.5 billion global English speakers – the most spoken language in the world. Why not make your linguistic skills even more powerful by learning other strategic languages? It’s always useful to learn aspects of a language while traveling – phrases in German, French, Italian, Greek and Romanian for your trip across Europe, perhaps. But there are a handful of languages that would be wise to learn, especially as a frequent traveler. Here are the three most useful second languages as per

3 Most Useful Second Languages

Arabic

Make your Linguistic Skills even more Powerful
Credit: Juan Ci/Shutterstock

There are at least 315 million native and non-native speakers in the Arab world, making it the fifth most spoken language in the world. With it, traveling to the Middle East and parts of Africa and Asia is so much simpler (especially since the written language is so different from English lettering). Arabic is the official language of Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and a few dozen other countries. It’s also the liturgical language of the Muslim population (around 1.5 billion people), making it highly important to religious scholars and those with an interest in the topic.

Spanish

Make your Linguistic Skills even more Powerful
Credit: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

Every traveler likely knows a tiny bit of Spanish, but with so many Spanish-speaking countries, it’s a no-brainer to learn in an effort to make your trips easier and more rewarding. There are about 400 million nature speakers in countries around the globe: Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala and, of course, Spain, just to name a few. It’s universally recognized as useful, as it’s the third most studied language in the world behind English and French.

Mandarin Chinese

Make your Linguistic Skills even more Powerful
Credit: Toa55/Shutterstock

If you want to interact with 1.1 billion or so people, you’re going to have to do so in Mandarin Chinese, nearly a billion of which are native speakers. China is expected to become the world’s leading economy by 2050. If you’re in business, it’s a must-know language. It would at least be extremely useful as the country’s worldwide influence increases.

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Oman Fourth Most Peaceful Country in MENA

Oman Fourth Most Peaceful Country in MENA

Muscat Daily on June 12, 2019, commented on Oman Fourth Most Peaceful Country in MENA as “Peace in the world’s least peaceful region (MENA) improved marginally last year, based on improvements in 11 countries.” Oman Fourth Most Peaceful Country in MENA is not alone for Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE preceded it in the ranking.

Oman Fourth Most Peaceful Country in MENA

Oman has been ranked fourth among the MENA countries and 69th in the world on the Global Peace Index (GPI) 2019. Oman earned 1.953 points this year.

The report has been published by the Australia-based Institute of Economics and Peace. Iceland remains the most peaceful country in the world, a position it has held since 2008. It is joined at the top by New Zealand, Austria, Portugal, and Denmark.

Oman Fourth Most Peaceful Country in MENA

Bhutan has recorded the best improvement and is now the 15th most peaceful nation in the world. According to the report, Qatar made the next best improvement. Economic strains can increase the risk of unrest by fomenting internal divisions and civil and political unrest, the report stated.

According to the report, Afghanistan is now the least peaceful country in the world, replacing Syria, which is now the second least peaceful. South Sudan, Yemen, and Iraq comprise the remaining five least peaceful countries.

Peace in the world’s least peaceful region (MENA) improved marginally last year, based on improvements in 11 countries. The regional average improved in all three GPI domains in 2019, with reductions in population displacement, political terror, terrorism, deaths from internal and external armed conflicts, military spending, and armed services personnel.

In the 2019 GPI, 86 countries improved while 76 countries deteriorated, with the global average GPI score improving by -0.09 per cent.
The 2019 GPI finds that the world became more peaceful for the first time in five years, with the average level of country peacefulness improving slightly by 0.09 per cent.

Of the 23 GPI indicators, eight recorded an improvement, 12 had a deterioration, with the remaining three indicators not registering any change over the past year.

This is the thirteenth edition of the GPI, which ranks 163 independent states and territories according to their level of peacefulness.

Could OPEC play second fiddle to US’s oil boom?

Could OPEC play second fiddle to US’s oil boom?

With America’s oil boom, OPEC is stuck in retreat as demonstrated in this June 11, 2019, post of CNN’s. The MENA mainstream media are shouting: Could OPEC play second fiddle to US’s oil boom? In any case, a new world order seems to be taking shape with respect to the world’s energy generation, production and trade.

In the meantime, here is CNN’s view on this seemingly fight between Shale and conventional fossil fuel type of commerce.

Could OPEC play second fiddle to US’s oil boom?

America’s oil boom will break more records this year. OPEC is stuck in retreat

By Matt EganCNN Business

New York (CNN Business) The epic American oil boom is just getting started. OPEC, on the other hand, is stuck on the sidelines. US oil production is on track to spike to a record 13.4 million barrels per day by the end of 2019, according to a recent report by energy research firm Rystad Energy. Texas alone is expected to soon top 5 million barrels per day in oil production — more than any OPEC member other than Saudi Arabia. Oil plunges back into bear market The surge in American barrels — led by the Permian Basin in West Texas — has offset oil blocked by US sanctions on Venezuela and Iran. But all of that US oil is also contributing to a supply glut that last week sent crude into another bear market. OPEC has been forced to scale back its output — a trend that could continue as the cartel tries to prop prices back up. “We continue to see the Permian representing the key driver of global oil supply growth for the next five years,” Goldman Sachs analyst Brian Singer wrote to clients on Monday.

US daily output could soon top 14 million

The shale oil revolution has made the United States the world’s leading producer, surpassing Saudi Arabia and Russia. The ferocity of the US shale oil revolution has caught analysts off guard several times over the past decade. Rystad Energy ramped up its year-end US output forecast by 200,000 to 13.4 million barrels per day. In May, the United States likely produced a record 12.5 million barrels of oil per day, the firm added. All but four million of those barrels were from shale oilfields. That growth is expected to continue. The United States is on track to end 2020 by producing 14.3 million barrels per day, Rystad projects. That’s slightly higher than the firm previously estimated and nearly triple 2008’s output. Of course, analysts could have to rein in those blockbuster forecasts if oil prices crash significantly further. That would force American frackers to preserve cash and pull back on production.

OPEC’s production hits five year low

OPEC remains in retreat as the cartel tries to balance the market by putting a floor beneath prices. OPEC’s oil production tumbled to 29.9 million barrels per day in May, the lowest level in more than five years, Rystad said. OPEC output is down 2.6 million per day since October 2018 — the month before oil prices crashed into the last bear market. Khalid al-Falih, Saudi Arabia’s energy minister, said on Friday that OPEC is close to a deal to extend its production cuts. Those cuts, which Saudi Arabia has borne the brunt of, are due to expire at the end of June. The stock market is ‘spoiled’ by rate cuts” We think that OPEC will at least maintain its output cuts, and maybe even deepen them at their next meeting,” Caroline Bain, chief commodities economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a note to clients on Monday. Rystad dimmed its projection for Saudi Arabia’s oil production from 10.6 million barrels per day to 10.3 million.

Venezuela, Iran under pressure

OPEC’s output could be further hurt by problems in some of its member countries. Iran’s oil exports have plunged because of US sanctions. The years-long collapse of Venezuela’s oil industry has been accelerated in recent months by US sanctions and sprawling blackouts in the South American nation. “There appears little prospect of a recovery in output from Iran or Venezuela any time soon,” Bain wrote. Violence is also threatening oil production in Libya and Nigeria. All told, Rystad Energy estimates 1.3 million barrels per day of oil production is at risk in those four OPEC nations. “Risks to short-term supply are undoubtedly still plentiful,” Rystad analyst Bjørnar Tonhaugen said in the report.

Will crude slide below $50?

Despite all this, analysts aren’t predicting a spike in oil prices. If anything, forecasters are bracing for more pressure on prices, due in part to robust US production. Brent, which has tumbled about 15% since late April to $63 a barrel, should finish the year at around $60 a barrel, according to Capital Economics. The US economy is about to break a record. These 11 charts show why US oil prices, trading at about $54 a barrel, are down nearly 19% since late April. Recent selling has been driven by a spike in oil inventories that suggest demand for crude is deteriorating. Goldman Sachs said that a reversal in the oil demand metrics will be required to prevent US oil prices from sinking below the $50-$60 range.”Our real concern is over demand weakness,” consulting firm Facts Global Energy wrote in a report on Monday. “Have we entered an era where demand will keep falling and we have a lot more oil on our hands than expected?”

Solar panels all over the Sahara desert?

Solar panels all over the Sahara desert?

– Imagine newsletter #2

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Solar panels all over the Sahara desert? Asked Will de Freitas, Environment + Energy Editor, The Conversation, starting with:

You may have seen a variant of this meme before. A map of North Africa is shown, with a surprisingly small box somewhere in Libya or Algeria shaded in. An area of the Sahara this size, the caption will say, could power the entire world through solar energy:

Over the years various different schemes have been proposed for making this idea a reality. Though a company called Desertec caused a splash with some bold ideas a decade ago, it collapsed in 2014 and none of the other proposals to export serious amounts of electricity from the Sahara to Europe and beyond are anywhere close to being realised.

It’s still hard to store and transport that much electricity from such a remote place, for one thing, while those people who do live in the Sahara may object to their homeland being transformed into a solar superpower. In any case, turning one particular region into a global energy hub risks all sorts of geopolitical problems.

The Imagine newsletter aims to tackle these big “what if” questions, so we asked a number of academics to weigh in on the challenges of exploiting the cheapest form of electricity from perhaps the cheapest and best spot on Earth.


Sahara has huge energy potential

Amin Al-Habaibeh is an engineer at Nottingham Trent University who has researched various options for Saharan solar.


Read more: Should we turn the Sahara Desert into a huge solar farm?


He points to the sheer size and amount of sunshine the Sahara desert receives:

  • It’s larger than Brazil and slightly smaller than the US.
  • If every drop of sunshine that hits the Sahara was converted into energy, the desert would produce enough electricity over any given period to power Europe 7,000 times over.
Solar panels all over the Sahara desert?
Global horizontal irradiation, a measure of how much solar power is received per year. Global Solar Atlas/World Bank

So even a small chunk of the desert could indeed power much of the world, in theory. But how would this be achieved?

Al-Habaibeh points to two main technologies. Both have their pros and cons.

  • Concentrated solar power uses lenses or mirrors to focus the sun’s energy in one spot, which becomes incredibly hot. This heat then generates electricity through a steam turbine.
  • In this image the tower in the middle is the “receiver” which then feeds heat to a generator:
Solar panels all over the Sahara desert?
Aerial view of a large concentrated solar power plant. Novikov Aleksey/Shutterstock
  • Some systems store the heat in the form of molten salt. This means they can release energy overnight, when the sun isn’t shining, providing a 24h supply of electricity.
  • Concentrated solar power is very efficient in hot, dry environments, but the steam generators use lots of water.
  • Then there are regular photovoltaic solar panels. These are much more flexible and easier to set up, but less efficient in the very hottest weather.

Overall, Al-Habaibeh is positive:

Just a small portion of the Sahara could produce as much energy as the entire continent of Africa does at present. As solar technology improves, things will only get cheaper and more efficient. The Sahara may be inhospitable for most plants and animals, but it could bring sustainable energy to life across North Africa – and beyond.


Solar panels could have remarkable impact on the desert though

Installing mass amounts of solar panels in the Sahara could also have a remarkable impact on the desert itself.

The Sahara hasn’t always been dry and sandy. Indeed, archaeologists have found traces of human societies in the middle of the desert, along with prehistoric cave paintings of Savannah animals. Along with climate records, this suggests that just a few thousand years ago the “desert” was far greener than today.

Solar panels all over the Sahara desert?
Long-extinct elephants still remain carved into rocks in southern Algeria. Dmitry Pichugin / shutterstock

Alona Armstrong, an environmental science lecturer at Lancaster University, wrote about a fascinating study in 2018 that suggested massive renewable energy farms could make the Sahara green again.


Read more: Massive solar and wind farms could bring vegetation back to the Sahara


A team of scientists imagined building truly vast solar and wind farms, far larger than most countries, and simulated the impact they would have on the desert around them. They found that:

  • Solar panels reflect less heat back into space compared to sand.
  • This means the surface would warm, causing air to rise and form clouds.
  • This would mean more rainfall, especially in the Sahel region at the southern edge of the desert.
  • And more vegetation would grow, which would absorb more heat, drive more precipitation, and so on
  • It’s an example of a climate feedback.
Solar panels all over the Sahara desert?
Large-scale wind and solar would mean more new rain in some areas than others. Eviatar Bach, CC BY-SA

This may be a nice side effect of a huge Saharan solar plant, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it should happen. As Armstrong points out:

These areas may be sparsely populated but people do live there, their livelihoods are there, and the landscapes are of cultural value to them. Can the land really be “grabbed” to supply energy to Europe and the Middle East?


Solar panels all over the Sahara desert?
Ghardaia, Algeria. Even in the middle of the Sahara, there are settlements. Sergey-73/Shutterstock

Is this climate colonialism?

If we want to deploy millions of solar panels in the Sahara, then who is “we”? Who pays for it, who runs it and, crucially, who gets the cheap electricity?

This is what worries Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò, a philosopher who researches climate justice at Georgetown University. He mentions Saharan solar power as one of the possible policies involved in a Green New Deal, a wide-ranging plan to enact a “green transition” over the next decade.


Read more: How a Green New Deal could exploit developing countries


He points out that exports of solar power could: “Exacerbate what scholars like sociologist Doreen Martinez call climate colonialism – the domination of less powerful countries and peoples through initiatives meant to slow the pace of global warming.”

  • While Africa may have abundant energy resources, the continent is also home to the people who are the least connected to the grid.
  • Solar exports risk “bolstering European energy security … while millions of sub-Saharan Africans have no energy of their own.”

What if we’re looking at the wrong desert?

All of this will be moot if Saharan solar never actually happens. And Denes Csala, a lecturer in energy systems at Lancaster University, is sceptical.


Read more: Why the new ‘solar superpowers’ will probably be petro-states in the Gulf


It’s true that much of the world’s best solar resources are found in the desert. Here’s a graph from his PhD research which shows how Saharan nations dominate:

Solar panels all over the Sahara desert?
The sunniest tenth of the world is mostly Saharan countries … and Saudi Arabia. Denes Csala / NREL, Author provided

But Denes says that we’re looking at the wrong desert. In fact, the countries of the Arabian peninsula are better placed to exploit the sun. He argues several factors work in favour of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and co:

  • They have a history of exporting oil.
  • In the energy market, worries over security of supply means countries tend to do business with the same partners over time.
  • Ports, pipes and other infrastructure that have been built to ship oil and gas could be repurposed to ship solar energy as hydrogen.

[Energy security] would be the Achilles heel of a northern African energy project: the connections to Europe would likely be the continent’s single most important critical infrastructure and, considering the stability of the region, it is unlikely that European countries would take on such a risk.

It would be fair to say academics have mixed views about the idea of mass Saharan solar. While the energy potential is obvious, and most of the necessary technology already exists, in the long run it may prove too complicated politically.


Still think this is all fantasy?

Maybe Europeans should look closer to home. The UK Planning Inspectorate is currently examining the Cleve Hill solar farm proposal in Kent, which would involve installing nearly a million solar panels across a marshland site the size of 600 football pitches. To protect against flooding, the panels would be mounted several metres in the air. If built, despite opposition from locals and conservationists, Cleve Hill would be by far the country’s largest solar farm and about the same size as Europe’s largest, near Bordeaux.

Alastair Buckley from the University of Sheffield points out the project would be groundbreaking as, unlike other ventures of this kind, it doesn’t rely on subsidies. With solar power getting ever cheaper, Cleve Hill – if it happens – seems to mark the moment when solar may start paying for itself – even far from the world’s deserts.

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This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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