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After Paris: Codes of Tolerance as the Bridge

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The slaughter of 17 people in the past week in Paris marks a dark era in Europe in the relationship between European Muslims and the Arab world – just as it were 14 years ago when the 9/11 terror struck in the USA. These terror attacks strike at the heart of Europe. They erupt many emotions in all of us.

This violence in the name of religion penetrates the core of all European countries, the democratic parties, their governments and the general public, the freedom of the press and expression, religious freedom, cultural tolerance and respect towards each other.

Ultimately, the world order of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights is shaken in its core as well.

Ironically, the first victim was a Muslim. 42 year old police officer Ahmed Merabed was  executed at point-blank range in public view on the sidewalk outside of Charlie Hebdo. The shocking video is available on the internet.

These murders and kidnappings were carried out by the perpetrators “in the name of Islam, with vengeance for the Prophet and because of attacks on Muslims.” They triggered massive outrage and fear  of Islam and Muslims worldwide.
They provide the radical nationalists – like the Front National in France or the Pegida movement in Germany – unprecedented breeding ground, more press, more coverage, more popularity.  In all EU countries the mood shifts incrementally with each rebellious act.
For many in the West, Islam has become a menace.  The latest study of the German Bertelsmann Foundation in January 2015 reveals this sentiment.
57% of Germans view Islam as a threat.
61% believe Islam does not fit within western societies.
What do we do now?

This core question was already presented by Lenin at the end of each Politibuero gathering to focus on actions.
What can we, the 3 core groups do?
The 500 million Europeans in the EU
The 44 million Muslims in Europe
The 1.6 billion Muslims in the World

Our world has changed drastically in the last 20 years through globalization. This give us opportunities but these opporutnities don’t come without risks and unrest. Although we band together, we are drawn apart by ideoligies and beliefs. What world will we build, will we choose for our children to live together in harmony as Germans, as Arabs, as Westerners? What will we leave as a legacy to our children, to your children in the world?
Do we take our responsibility as leaders of the Western World serious enough?  Do we understand what it means to live together in harmony, in tolerance, in peaceful co-existence? Or will we sit in desperate passivity and allow the world to crumble around us?
Will we leave a legacy of acquiescence that the radicals will feed off of, that the Radicals will profit from, in a world of fear, comfort and political correctness? Don’t we desparately need a grand strategy, a fundamental understanding, a common soul that works through our shared humanity to establish a code of tolerance?
Without a unified front and power tools, we cannot confront the misguided goals of IS and al-Qaida.  We must  have the courage to stand up.
Consider this double strategy:
•    of the hard and soft factors of fighting for peace
•    of power and diplomacy
•    weaponry, police, state security, military
•    education, dialogue and reconciliation and the will to promote tolerance on all sides

Today I would like to focus on the soft factors that contribute to the Codes of Tolerance.  What must we do to actualize these tenants of assimiliation and understanding?

The world-wide concern about the far-reaching terrorist campaign of IS is not enough.  We need actions. Similarly, acknowledging that the violent acts do not represent the entire body of Islamic believers and its doctrine, is not enough. Violence in the name of the Prophet contradicts what is written in the Qur’an.
But the radicals – like in Paris-  always argue they defend the Prophet as representatives of the true religion fighting for its victory. They cherry-pick some harsh words from the Qur’an which paise fighting the unbelievers.
Tens of thousands of misguided Musims are fighting what they see as unbelievers, killing Christians and mostly Muslims alike in the name of Mohammed in a mistaken fanatical ideology.  Therefore, it is the problem of Islam. It is the fight for its interpretation, the soul of the Holy Qur’an and the ownership of the religion.

This violent detour from the original tenants of Islam has now become a problem for the entire body of the Muslim people.  Moderate and extemists alike. Her Royal Highness Rania, The Queen of Jordan, put her finger into the wound on November 18, 2014 in Abu Dhabi:
„The attacks of radical Islamists are an attack on the values of Islam. But the moderate Muslims are equally to blame: It is said that our silence speaks volumes.“

Egyptian President al-Sisi rightfully determined at the Al Azhar University on New Year’s Day 2015:

”It can not be that the Islamic world is perceived as a haven of danger, of killing and destruction by the rest of the world.”

„We need a religious revolution in Islam“, he declared.

I had the honor to meet the 17 year old Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala in December 2014 in Oslo.  I asked her about suggestions to promote tolerance.
She impressed me deeply in how clearly she defended the true Islam including the right of girls to education.
She speaks openly about risking her and the other girls’ lives while the others remained silent.
It is not embarrassing and a shame that a young Muslim girl is braver than thousands of imams, generals, princes and politicians?
There are Muslim heros, but still too few. Like Lassana Bathily. This 24 year old Muslim was an employee in the Kosher supermarket in Paris. He risked his life to hide several jewish hostages in the walk-in freezer to spare their lives from the Muslim killer.

The thundering silence in the Muslim world must end. Only those who stand up and fight for the true Islam, can win.
He who is silent is lost. The roads to murder are always paved with the silence of the majorities. He who is silent carries the guilt of others. But Islam is all about a joint responsibility.
I miss the fierce Islamic courage and noble bravery that the Prophet demands of his followers. I call this bourgeois silence cowardice and convenience. Both are very dangerous.
From some high-ranking representatives of the Muslims I also hear the argument:
”If we distance ourselves from the killers or the IS, we’re part of their their propaganda. We have nothing to do with them. We do not have to defend for ourselves.”


This unsetting justification is wrong and highly dangerous. We Germans know why?  
In the 1920s and 1930s, the German citizens lost step-by-step the power to define what a good German should do or not, what are the German values and the German culture. The very few, yet steadily increasing number of radical Nazis then defined what was German and what was not. Just like today where the silent majority of Muslims is about to loose moral control about the values of Islam. The majority of the bourgeoise stayed silent and remained passive for too long until it was too late. After that anyone who opened his mouth or resisted, was promptly delivered up to the concentration camps or killed.
Is this cowardice to be repeated in the Arab world now?  Must history repeat itself ?

The Islamic world must reflect on and reclaim the roots of faith and fight for the true Quran and the peaceful wisdom of the prophet openly and actively. The green banner of true Islam must overcome the black banner of the IS-terrorist and other extremists.
Frank, courageous, everywhere. This is the new Djihad of faith.
 
Worldwide, probably less than half a percent of people who are prone to violence, misuse their religion as a mandate to confrontation towards believers of different faith. (Christians, Jews, depending on affiliation, but especially Schiites and Sunnies is Syria, Iraq or Pakistan). That is only two to five of a thousand violence prone people. But put that number in action this tiny minority becomes very loud and dangerous. They own the streets, they have the media’s attention.

The 99% majority of Muslims stays silent, looks away, doesn not protest openly, leaving the few radicals too much space and thus the authority to interpret their Islam. This silent majority does not understand the mechanisms of the seizure of power by resolute totalitarian leaders born out of the violent one percent at the beginning of their crusade.


Official statements, so far, have been too short and superficial. They will not succeed in stopping the wave of ideological violence and misinterpretation. One has to dig much deeper. They have to take to the streets and to the media. They have to fight for their right to peaceful existence, not cower to violence.

We need an uprising of decent Muslims and their spiritual and political leaders in all Muslim countries against extremism and violence.
All true Muslims are called together in the face of this crisis of the perception of Islam to defend their God, the Holy Book and their Prophet Muhammad against the violence and sins of the IS and their deadly tools and other terrorists. This is not a choice, this is a Muslim duty.

This is the path to actively protect the true doctrine, to enlighten misguided youths, to contain the radicals and hinder the growth of distrust against Islam and hence a rupture of European societies and more so the Islamic world. It is there, where most people die at the hand of the few radicals. Islamic Extremism is pricipally a danger to Muslims.

The global media coverage about the terror in Paris somewhat overshadowed, that simultaneously 63 people in Iraq, 26 in Syria and 18 in Aghanistan were killed. I thus demand active reconciliation between Sunnies and Schiites, just like the Lutheran Church reached agreement with the Cathlic Church after centuries of bitter warfare of faith. We in the West must contain xenophobia, Islamophobia, and Neo-Nazis. 35.000 people demonstrated against xenophobia in Dresden on Sunday. In Paris, one million Christians, Muslims and Jews took to the streets. And the Muslims rose on Tuesday at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.
More of that! Let’s not stand still. Let’s continue! With many actions worldwide.

Our fight for tolerance is your fight. Your fight for tolerance is our fight. We can only save the world from hate and terror if we contain the different radicals together.

We must actively educate more tolerance and respect towards other religions, ethnic minorities and races globally. We need a Jihad for tolerance.We have to spent hundreds of millions of dollars in grassroots projects, in the Muslim world and in the West. A global action plan is needed to promote the human codes of tolerance and respect and to contain the radicals. We all do too little.
We have to maintain the good human interaction as if it were a beautiful lawn. If we don’t tend to our garden, the weeds will choke out the flowers. Promoting the soft factors of peace and tolerance is like seeding plants, giving daily watering and care.


We need a credible policy of the values for the UN Charter to establish an honest global constitution without political rhetoric.
We need a living soul, not just checkbooks or weapons. This includes the steady promotion of the codes of tolerance towards minorities, the poor and the disenfranchised religions and races. Specific details are described in my most current book “Codes of Tolerance.”


My book has been translated into Arabic and published by Al Arabica Publishing in Cairo.  I would know like to present the first two samples to Dr Mohamad Hamed Alashmary und Professor Mohamed Khallouk.

Codes of Tolerance

This book,  “Codes of Tolerance” depicts a picture of the true peace-loving Islam with many facets and hence a positive message to all: Islam is peaceful in its  roots and tolerant of Christians and Jews.
The book explores 10 Golden Rules of tolerance in Islam: The dominance of goodness and mercy of God in the first sura and all suras of the Qur’an. The Muslim welcome address “Peace be with you”
The Prophet aimed at hilm, a new society of harmony and respect. Punishment on judgment day and not on earth. The state role model through reconciliation after the conquest of Mecca 630 to 632. The Prophet did not enforce a totalitarian theocracy, but left the political system as it was, forced nobody to concert to Islam and and pardoned his enemies.
 

There are many references of the ancient sacred text of the Jews and the Christians, who share 14 prophets with the Muslims.
At least 27 verses in the Qur’an  call on Muslims to practice tolerance and patience to Christians and Jews as other believers to the same God and children of Abraham.
The clear restriction of the use of force only in self-defense in the Quar’an and only as long as the attacker poses an immediate danger.  Violence should never be practiced against innocent civilians.

The Prophet and later the first two caliphs signed 14 tolerance contracts with Christian communities for eternity, protecting the free exercise of religion.There is a strong tolerance tradition with the Christians. Documented by the close alliances of the first 100 Muslims Mohammad sent from hostile Mecca in exile to the Christian Kingdom of the Negus in Abyssinia  615 to 622, as well as in the Golden Age of Islam in the 9th century.



The obligation to comply with all rules of the UN Charter by Sura 17.34 as applicable law in Islamic countries. The radical Muslims misunderstand or ignore these messages of tolerance and the model of Prophet Muhammad.  They cherry-pick only six sentences of the 6236 suras of the Koran in order to ignore 99.99 percent. Thus they put the Islam upside down.

Opposite to the propaganda of the extremists, the true message of the Qur’an and the Prophet are of mercy, the virtue of serenity, harmony (hilm) and for peace (salam).  The position of women in Islam casts Islam in a light of mistrust and disdain in Western countries. I have therefore highlighted the relationship between the Prophet and women in the chapter: “Muhammad: ’I am the best to women.’
“


Central to its comprehension is the description of Khadidjah bint Khuwaylid (ca. 555-620), the first wife of the Prophet. She was an emancipated and very successful businesswoman in Mecca. She employed the younger Muhammad and asked for marriage. Only one world religion was funded by a woman:  Islam.  Not a man, but a woman was “the first Muslim.”
A woman was the most important counselor and supporter of the Prophet.

She should be the role model for all Muslim women, because God chose an emancipated business woman on purpose. The extremists never heard of her importance and style, but they should.  Khadidjah is the opposite of Muslim teaching today as is propagated by the IS and Boko Haram which restrict and abuse women who neither go to school nor are emancipated “in the name of the Prophet.”

The Prophet encouraged the emancipation of women in the tribal society of the 7th century.  This was a groundbreaking societal right for the female citizen.
The rules of the Quar’an protected the women with not less but six more significant rights: Inheritance, personal property, consent to marriage, and prohibiting the killing of female offspring. The Qu’ran never said: do not give them more rights. It does not limit women rights, but guides towards emancipation.

The Prophet fostered the emancipation of women. The tribal communities of the 7th century did not allow for more. Hence, an important part of the Codes of Tolerace ist the propagation of women in the Islamic world. I appeal to every responsible citizen to become personally involved in the development of this common global village. The codes of tolerance are our common ground, our global ethos we share.

The Codes of Tolerance include 60 rules and paths towards a world policy of human kindness, combined with 79 best practices for the most important groups: All of us in general, parents, religious leaders, the media, politicians, sport and culture.
We can successfully follow the path of tolerance with many good deeds.  The world can silence their haters and nuture their flowers within the spectrum of love for our children of all faiths.
Peaceful cohabitance through tolerance towards other religions, minorities and races is attainable.

An active and fortified tolerance policy is not naïve.  It is not the dream of do-gooders.  It is absolutely essential.
Our world needs a positive vision. A hawk alone cannot bring peace. Only 0.01 percent of our national budgts are spent on reconciliation projects, but 99.99 percent is  used for internal security and defense.
We need a readjustment and an active tolerance policy, which is financed with a least one percent of all expenditures for foreign affairs, development and defense.

We also need zero tolerance towards the intolerant. We must actively oppose the poison of hate.There is the very real threat of a vacuum, of soft politics, that invites the radicals the fill the void. It can also be deadly for Qatar – as for Berlin in 1933.
In future, only those rebels and states should receive support, who abide by the global order rooted in the UN-Chart, include its resolutions and implement them. This is true for any kind of support – currently as in Syria, Egypt, Gaza, Libya or Pakistan.

He who refuses must be isolated. No funding for extremists any more. Let us leave our world not to the haters and evil.
We cannot wait – we have to start now.  Local, creative, active.
We all can start with our small puzzel piece of peace as the first stone in the mosaic of seven billion people.
We can create together as Europeans and as Arabs a new harmonious world of togetherness with more respect and love of humanity in our global village. Our children are our greatest commodity and their future is their right to inherit in a state of peace and security.

Qatar could become the role model in the Islamic world for this new policy. With its creative and flexible foreign policy, Qatar should play a leading role in this policy and the promotion of codes of tolerance in finding projects funded by $1 billion dollars of humanitarian funds. This money may be well spent. It will change the Arabic countries and the world in a positive fashion – in accordance with the wishes of the Prophet. The Qatari television station Al Jazeera and the Qatar Foundation should address these vital issues about promoting peace more now that ever before.

Qatar could lead the way as a very important role model in moral and political leadership for the Arab world. Qatar can silence their critics by shouldering the essential moral responsibility of spreading the word of peace from the Prophet. This country can then fill a moral vacuum and fulfill the dreams of millions of young Arabs. With an initiative to prompt the human codes of tolerance and respect globally, Qatar shines even brighter as a beacon of light . As a moral and Islamic Lighthouse.

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Middle East

Palestine Ends All Agreements with Israel and the United States

Nikolay Plotnikov

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On May 19, Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), declared an end to all agreements, including security agreements, with Israel and the United States. On May 22, Palestinian security forces withdrew from the East Jerusalem area.

The reason for this decision was Israel’s claims to annex about 30 per cent of the territories in the West Bank, also known as Judea and Samaria. This was announced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on May 10 during the presentation of his government to the Knesset. According to him, the time has come to apply Israeli law to these territories and “write another glorified chapter in the history of Zionism.”

It should be noted that the territories mentioned are the Palestinian territories in West Bank captured by Israel during the six-day war of 1967. The United Nations defines these territories as occupied. According to UN General Assembly Resolution No. 181, they are “the area of the proposed Arab State.”

Israel considers these territories disputed. In violation of the Geneva Conventions, banning to move the civilian population into the occupied territory, to date, Israel has created about 140 settlements in West Bank with approximately 500,000 people living there. From the point of view of international law, they are not part of Israel. Another 200,000 Israelis moved to the occupied East Jerusalem.

The vote on extending Israeli sovereignty to the occupied Palestinian territories may take place on July 1. In this effort, Israel is actively supported by the United States, as the annexation of territories in West Bank is part of the so-called “deal of the century” formally unveiled by Donald Trump on January 28, 2020. He is convinced that the establishment of Israeli sovereignty over territories in West Bank is fully consistent with his personal peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says that annexing territories in West Bank is “ultimately Israel’s decision to make,” and the U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, the main supporter of Israeli settlements, is confident that Washington will recognize this move.

Netanyahu’s plan is not widely supported by the Israeli society. If the majority of Israeli Knesset members are ready to support it, a rather significant group of former senior military and special services officers are against it. For instance, 220 retired Israeli generals and admirals (including Gadi Shamni, a retired general in the Israel Defense Forces; Tamir Pardo, former Director of the Mossad; and Ami Ayalon, former director of the Shin Bet, Israel’s secret service) made a collective statement, warning that the annexation would threaten Israel’s peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, anger allies in the Gulf and undermine the Palestinian authorities collaborating with Israel on important security issues. The generals were supported by 149 prominent American-Jewish leaders and 11 members of the U.S. Congress.

Judging by opinion polls, a significant part of Israeli society is of the same opinion. Many Israeli human rights organizations, including such respectable ones as B’Tselem and Yesh Din, have spoken out against the proposed annexation.

Egypt, a major regional player and mediator between Israel and Hamas, is coordinating with Israel in its fight against ISIS and al-Qaeda in Sinai. The annexation of the West Bank can spark negative reactions from the Egyptian population, which will force President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to reconsider relations with Israel.

The situation with Jordan is more complicated, with a significant number of Palestinians living there. They will get involved if Israel begins to implement its plans. This will lead to even greater radicalization and will inevitably provoke mass protests. The Kingdom of Jordan, facing difficult economic problems exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, will be confronted with enormous challenges. Amman is well aware of this.

For many years, the Jordan-Israel border was the safest border for Tel Aviv. The situation may change after July 1, as warned of by Jordan’s King Abdullah II. On May 15, in an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, Abdullah II warned that if Israel really does move to change the borders, it would set off a massive conflict with Jordan.

It is unlikely that this time the Gulf monarchies, collaborating with Israel against Iran in recent years, won’t get involved (for example, Saudi Arabia, exchanging intelligence with Israeli intelligence services). They have known about Netanyahu’s plans for West Bank for a long time, now the public in these countries will probably have a negative reaction to the annexation and require actions from the authorities.

The United Nations and the European Union cautioned against the West Bank annexation. Their representatives, in particular, Nickolay Mladenov, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, warned that this would be a devastating blow to the two-State solution for resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, would slam the door on fresh negotiations and threaten efforts to advance regional and international peace.

According to Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union, Brussels does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the occupied West Bank. However, this is his personal opinion and not the official position of the EU. The Union does not have a single position on what needs to be done now. Some EU member states, such as Hungary and Austria, believe that this is not the right time for such statements. Ireland, Norway, and Luxembourg, on the contrary, believe that it is necessary to make a statement and take measures against Israel if it does not abandon its plans.

France and Germany expressed their disagreement with Netanyahu’s intentions to extend Israeli sovereignty to Jewish settlements in West Bank. They called on the Israeli authorities to refrain from any unilateral measures that would lead to the annexation of all or part of the Palestinian territories. Given that Borrell’s statement is personal, and the demarches by Paris and Berlin are more like wasting breath, it is unlikely that the EU will move from words to some decisive action against Israel, like imposing sanctions. Moreover, the United States will not allow this.

Turkey, as expected, harshly criticized Netanyahu’s intentions. Ankara warned that the country would always stand by the brotherly Palestinian people.

The Church expressed its utmost concern. On May 7, the Patriarchs and Heads of the Holy Land Churches published a statement on Israeli unilateral annexation plans, “which would bring about the loss of any remaining hope for the success of the peace process.” Church leaders urged the Palestine Liberation Organization, which they called “the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people,” to resolve all internal and factional conflicts so it could present a united front “dedicated to achieving peace and the building of a viable state that is founded upon pluralism and democratic values.” They also called on the UN, the United States, Russia, and the European Union to respond to annexation plans.

The League of Arab States is also making attempts to increase the efforts to oppose Netanyahu’s plans. The Arab League condemned Israel, saying that the implementation of plans to annex any part of the Palestinian territories would “represent a new war crime” against the Palestinians. In late April, in the Arab League Council online extraordinary meeting at the ministerial level, under the chairmanship of Egypt, a joint statement was made to support the Palestinians and Jordan, rejecting the Israeli unilateral moves.

An ambiguous position was taken by Canada. When the people of Crimea decided to join the Russian Federation following to the results of the referendum, official Ottawa was restless about the alleged Russian annexation and not only joined the economic and political sanctions of the West against Moscow and certain Russian politicians and entrepreneurs, but also sent its military instructors and started to provide material and technical support to the Ukrainian army. The country, thus, became directly involved in the civil war in Donbass. Now the Canadian government is abstaining from making public statements condemning Netanyahu’s intentions, let alone imposing practical sanctions.

There is little time left until the moment of truth on July 1. Much depends on how the international community and the Arab world behave. The complicit silence in the face of the situation, as was the case with Israel’s recent annexation of the Golan Heights, might bring about unexpected consequences for the entire Middle East. Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki cautioned against the annexation, saying it would “end the two-state solution” and will “turn the battle from a political one to an endless religious war.”

Judging by the statement of Mahmoud Abbas, there is still hope. According to him, Palestinians are ready to return to the negotiating table with Israel, but with the mediation of a third party.

Some experts believe that under the prevailing conditions, the Middle East Quartet – the United Nations, the United States, Russia, and the European Union, could serve as a mediator. However, there are some factors that can obstruct such work.

The European Union is divided at this point. Its members should first decide what they want to achieve and develop an action strategy.

Prior to the U.S. presidential election, the current administration will not refuse the well-publicized “deal of the century.” It is part of the election campaign of Donald Trump, who is extremely interested in the lack of international consensus on measures to influence Israel. In addition, the American President probably takes into account the fact that the Arab world is now focused on internal problems and paralyzed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Russia emphasized its willingness, together with other participants of the Middle East Quartet, to encourage talks between Israel and Palestine and “to continue to facilitate the resumption of the peace process via direct dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians within a generally recognized international legal framework.” On May 22, by the initiative of the Palestinian side, Mikhail Bogdanov, Deputy Foreign Minister and Special Presidential Representative for the Middle East and Africa, had a telephone conversation with Hussein al-Sheikh, Fatah Central Committee member, who informed Mr Bogdanov about the latest decisions by the Palestinian leadership regarding relations with Israel. Russia reaffirmed its unwavering commitment to supporting the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including the establishment of an independent state within the 1967 lines with its capital in East Jerusalem, living peacefully and maintaining neighborly relations with Israel. The Special Presidential Representative of the Russian Federation pointed out that the proposal by Russia’s leadership to hold a face-to-face meeting between President of Palestine Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu in Moscow without any preconditions remained on the table.

At the same time, If Palestine is ready for negotiations, Benjamin Netanyahu might not be. In Israel, many of his political opponents believe that discussions around the annexation of part of the West Bank and COVID-19 are the only way for him to stay in politics and evade prosecution for corruption and breach of trust, at least for the next few months. And the Prime Minister is unlikely to refuse it.

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Prospects of normalization grim in Libya

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Analysts say that Libya is one of the most important crisis to watch for in 2020 because of the involvement of Russia and Turkey. More importantly, the plight of the Libyans after almost 10 years of civil war cannot be ignored.

Jens Stoltenberg, head of NATO military alliance recently said in an interview that Turkey remains an important ally and NATO is ready to support GNA increasing the possibility of Russia and NATO locking horns.

Eight years after Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi eliminated his country’s weapons of mass destruction the colonel found himself on the wrong side of the gun, when he was overthrown and killed in 2011 submerging the country in a civil war.

NATO members led by Britain and France supported the so-called revolution by airstrikes – then watched as the country sank into chaos. Barrack Obama said leaving Libya without a plan after Gaddafi was the “biggest mistake” of his presidency.

There are fears that the global Covid-19 pandemic could devastate the war-torn Libya, where a decade long conflict has ravaged key infrastructure and created dire medical shortages.

Today the country is divided into two factions backed by foreign powers struggling to put the country together.

On the one side, there is the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) under Prime Minister Fayez Mustafa al-Sarraj in Tripoli supported by Turkey, Qatar, and Italy. Turkey has deployed Syrian mercenaries.

Tripoli has been under siege by Libyan National Army (LNA) headed by Khalifa Haftar, who started his offensive on Tripoli in April 2019. The offensive was launched while UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres arrived in Tripoli to prepare for a peace conference.

Unsuccessful in taking Tripoli, Haftar has laid a siege on the capital city for the last four months.

The 76-year-old Libyan-born commander Haftar is supported by Russia, Egypt, France, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and to a lesser extent Israel. Russia has sent mercenaries.

The Wall Street reported that prior to his April offensive on Tripoli, Haftar was in Riyadh where Saudis gave him tens of millions of dollars. 

In his dominion, Haftar is known as “the marshal”, and is the military ruler of eastern Libya, with Benghazi as his stronghold. He has promised to build a stable, democratic, and secular Libya but the regions in his control are without any law and order and corruption abounds.

There were several summits by international community to put an end to the Libyan strife before Covid-19 pandemic sidelined the Libyan crisis.

The last summit was called the Berlin Conference was held on January 19. Haftar and al-Sarraj didn’t even meet face to face and the summit failed to yield results.

China has remained neutral in this conflict. Under the Gaddafi regime, China engaged in various infrastructure activities with 35,000 Chinese laborers working across 50 projects, ranging from residential and railway construction to telecommunications and hydropower ventures. The year leading to Gaddafi’s overthrow, Libya was providing three percent of China’s crude oil supply, constituting roughly 150,000 barrels a day. All of China’s top state oil firms – CNPC, Sinopec Group, and CNOOC – had had standing infrastructure projects in Libya.

In the outbreak of protests in 2011, China sought to preserve economic ties with Libya and rejected the NATO-led military intervention. China abstained at the UN Security Council vote to authorize military intervention.

In late 2015, the GNA emerged as the new political authority, the product of negotiations brokered by the United Nations and backed by China.

Although many Chinese projects were suspended in Libya and bilateral trade decreased by 57 percent, China’s neutrality paved the way for Beijing to stand in good stead with GNA for years to come.

Immigrants crisis

Home to an estimated 654,000 migrants – more than 48,000 of them registered asylum seekers or refugees – many of them cramped conditions with little access to healthcare amidst the pandemic. An outbreak can be catastrophic.

Many live on transfers from friends and family and UNHCR handouts. With work hard to find many hope to proceed with their journey to Europe. Smugglers have put hundreds and thousands of them in boats and sent them across the Mediterranean to Italy.

UNHCR has been evacuating some of the most vulnerable refugees until airspace was shut in early April.

On May 13, WHO issued a joint statement on Libya emphasizing that the entire population of the country, especially some 400,000 Libyans that have been displaced – about half of them within the past year, since the attack on Tripoli — are at risk of Covid-19 pandemic.

The statement reported everyday challenges that humanitarian missions and workers face to carry on with their mission. The UN verified 113 cases of grave violations, including killing and maiming of children, attacks on schools, and health facilities.

The report points out that as of May 13, there were 64 confirmed cases of Covid-19, including three deaths, in different parts of the country. This shows transmission of the disease is taking place and the risk of further escalation of outbreak is very high.

The report talks about food security and latest assessments show that most cities are facing shortages of basic food items coupled with an increase in prices, urging all parties to protect the water supply facilities that have been deliberately targeted.

“We look forward with anticipation to the pledged financial support to the Humanitarian Response Plan for Libya, as announced by the GNA,” WHO statement said.

Oil production

Oil reserves in Libya are the largest in Africa with 46.4 billion barrels as of 2010. Much of Libya’s oil wealth is located in the east but the revenues are channeled through Tripoli-based state oil firm National Oil Corporation (NOC), which says it serves the whole country and stays out of its factional conflicts.

Prior to the 2011 Libyan civil war, Libya produced over 1.5 million barrels a day. As a result of a blockade of export terminals by LNA by February of this year oil production dropped to 200,000 barrels a day reports Bloomberg. NOC said the North African state’s current level of production is at 91,221 barrels per day as of March 17.

In order to choke GNA from the crucial crude export revenue, the LNA seized Libya’s export terminals and ports in the east in mid-January. The blockade has cost Libya some $560 million, Petroleum Economist reported in January. 

According to NOC, the blockade has plunged production from around 1.2 million barrels a day, and added losses had surpassed four billion dollars by April 15.

Conflict wages

In the last couple of weeks, significant developments have been happening in the Libyan civil war.

In an interview with Italian daily La Repubblica, Jens Stoltenberg, head of NATO military alliance said that Turkey remains an important ally and NATO is ready to support GNA. He stressed NATO is supporting UN’s efforts for a peaceful solutions to conflicts both in Libya and Syria.

Meanwhile, the independent English language Tripoli-based Libyan Express reported that Haftar launched a rocket attack Thursday on Tripoli, hitting the Central Hospital on other downtown areas. 

Tripoli Central Hospital and some civilian areas were targeted. GNA’s Health Ministry said 14 civilians were injured, adding that the hospital will not be able to serve people due to the attack pointing out what a massive setback was amid the outbreak of Coronavirus.

Libyan military forces said Monday that the Libyan army struck forces loyal to Haftar in Al-Watiya airbase in the southwest of Tripoli during the government-led Operation Volcano of Rage.

LNA has intensified attacks on civilians since the beginning of May as GNA made substantial military progress in the offensive in the western part of Tripoli. Armed drones provided by Turkey conducted effective attacks against the LNA.

Libyan Interior Minister Fathi Bashaghe has accused Haftar’s forces had used chemical weapons on the Salah Al-Deen front, south of Tripoli. The accusations were confirmed by Canadian journalist Amru Saleheddine, who found several government soldiers with symptoms to those of epilepsy, usually caused by nerve gas.

The conflict in Libya is backed by foreign actors with different objectives and priorities. Any emerging power configuration will be fragile unless the external actors come to a shared understanding.

From our partner Tehran Times

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Middle East

Internationalization of Higher Education in the GCC Countries

Ivan Bocharov

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Education is an important area of social life, shaping the intellectual and cultural state of society. In the context of globalization, the challenges of time give rise to new trends in it, one of which is internationalization. This process has already swept the whole world, including Arab countries. Some of them, especially the Gulf states, nowadays are actively competing with other exporters of educational services in the world market.

The development paths of higher education in the Arab Gulf countries were analyzed in a scientific article «Internationalization and the Changing Paradigm of Higher Education in the GCC Countries», as well as measures were taken to improve the quality of education and its regional integration. The author of the scientific work is Julie Vardhan, Assistant Professor at the School of Business, Manipal University. The work is based on an analysis of 167 university sites of the countries of the region and some scientific works devoted to the internationalization of higher education, integration, and demographic processes in the GCC countries. The analysis of Julie Vardhan is comprehensive. In addition to university sites, issues related to the history of the internationalization of education were analyzed, as well as data reflecting demographic trends in the GCC countries. These data allow to see the general picture of how the internationalization of higher education is developing in the Arab States of the Gulf.

According to the author’s definition, internationalization is the process of integration of international components into the country’s higher education system. Although universities have always developed international cooperation, globalization has created a new context for internationalization. Over the past decades, the number of educational institutions and students studying in them has sharply increased in the region.

Julie Vardhan divides the countries that compete among themselves in the educational services market into four groups. The first group includes the USA, UK, and Australia. In these countries are the best universities in the world, and English is their native language. The second group consists of Germany and France. German and French universities are trying to attract students from neighbouring countries, as well as those countries with which established strong sociocultural and historical ties. The third group includes Japan, Canada, and New Zealand. They attract from 75 thousand to 115 thousand international students per year. The fourth group consists of Malaysia, Singapore, and China. These countries have recently recognized the importance of global education, and now they are spending resources on the development of higher education to compete effectively in the global educational services market. According to the author, the GCC countries are also included in this group.

The main goal of the Gulf Cooperation Council is to develop integration processes and establish cooperation, including in the field of education. At the same time, the GCC countries face some problems associated with the development of advanced technologies. Recently, governments of member states have begun to pay more attention to the development of human capital to ensure sustainable economic growth. Educational and labour migration of knowledge workers directly affects the development of the country’s economy, and the Arab Gulf states are just interested in creating a knowledge economy.

For studying the electronic resources of educational institutions, the author used the method of content analysis. In particular, Julie Vardhan ascertained whether internationalization was mentioned on the university’s website by searching for the keywords «international», «global», «international partnerships», «international collaboration», «world-renowned faculty» and «diverse students, multicultural». Only one category is used in the study, in which the words mentioned above and phrases are combined, and it is the «phenomenon of internationalization». As part of the study, 167 university websites of the GCC countries were analyzed. Site analysis was limited to their English versions.

The author made a table that shows the growing trend in the number of universities in the region. Until the 1990s in most GCC countries, there were only one or two state universities. Since the early 2000s, a significant increase concerning the number of both state and private universities has been observed. This boost, according to Julie Vardhan, cannot be explained only by population growth. The focus on the development of human capital played a significant role in increasing the number of universities in the country of the region.

Most GCC countries have public and private institutions that establish partnerships with foreign universities. Besides, some international universities create their branches in the countries of the region. Among the 167 universities examined in this study, 103 educational institutions are private, 70 of them have established partnerships with foreign universities, or are their affiliates. In each of them, internationalization manifests itself in different ways. For example, Saudis often go abroad as part of academic mobility programs. At the same time, many students from other countries come to Saudi Arabia to study the basics of Islam at local universities. Thus, within the framework of internationalization, there are both import and export of education. The UAE and Qatar are states with a considerable number of branches of foreign universities, and the universities of Oman and Kuwait offer many double-degree programs.

One of the reasons for the growing demand for educational services from private universities and those universities that have established partnerships with educational institutions from other countries is the increasing number of youth. Another reason is that the Gulf Arab governments support internationalization and educational integration with other countries and foreign universities. Julie Vardhan outlines the following approaches to the internationalization of higher education, which are used by the governments of GCC member states. The first approach is the implementation of neoliberal reforms aimed at increasing the accessibility of higher education while compensating for the costs of consumers and the private sector. The second approach is to make changes to the curriculum to meet international standards. For example, Saudi Arabia, over the past years, has been trying to develop secular education, actively uses English to educate students, and also adopts the American system of education. The third approach is the establishment of extensive partnerships with foreign universities, affecting the international recognition of the prestige of education in the GCC countries.

The author acknowledges that the study has flaws. There is limited potential for the content analysis method. Julie Vardhan points out that the ability to analyze the content of Internet resources is limited by changing the nature of the data source. The content and structure of web pages can change quite quickly after the content analysis. She also notes that researchers should develop their coding scheme for the content analysis of university sites.

Despite some problems (for example, the commodification of education and the transformation of national identity), significant progress has been achieved in the internationalization of higher education in the GCC region in a short time. The region has great potential for further internationalization. The results of the study by Julie Vardhan help to trace the prospects for the internationalization of education in the framework of regional integration of learning. This work is of great scientific interest to anyone interested in the internationalization of higher education in the Gulf countries.

Studying several aspects of the internationalization of education at once prevented the author from concentrating on the electronic internationalization of university Internet resources. The methodology for researching university sites is not spelt out, and it does not specify how exactly the individual stages of content analysis should be implemented. Julie Vardhan believes that researchers should develop their coding scheme, which is the basis of the methodology. It is advisable to create universal and convenient tools for everyone to analyze the content of university sites so that every researcher of the internationalization of higher education can make the maximum contribution to their study. The question remains what difficulties the universities of the Arab countries of the region face in such internationalization. In this context, it is interesting to analyze which state initiatives in the field have been successful, and which experiences have not.

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