This is Qatar’s year to put its best foot forward.
A major producer of natural gas, the tiny Gulf state is under the magnifying glass as it enters the final phase of hosting the 2022 World Cup later this year and emerges as a potential part of efforts to reduce European dependence on Russian energy.
On balance, Qatar looks like it has already succeeded, as much on its own steam as with the help of its erstwhile detractors in the Gulf and elsewhere in the Arab world, including the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
Over the past decade, much of the attention has focused on labour rights in the Gulf state as a result of world governing soccer body FIFA’s awarding of the 2022 World Cup hosting rights to Qatar in 2010.
Qatar remains a target of criticism by human rights groups, despite implementing far-reaching reforms of its kafala or labour sponsorship system that long put workers at the mercy of their employers.
The criticism is rooted in the Gulf state’s weak implementation of the reforms; a problematic judicial system; a top-down, centralised decision-making process; and poor handling of World Cup and sports-related incidents.
In the latest incident, The Guardian newspaper, a pillar of critical coverage of the Qatari World Cup, reported that migrant workers, a majority of the population, had collectively paid billions of dollars in illegal recruitment fees over the last decade. Qatar outlawed burdening migrant workers with recruitment fees as part of its reforms.
Qatar opened recruitment centres in eight labour-supplying countries to ensure that recruitment would meet ethical standards in line with recommendations made by a Qatar Foundation study. The centres have reduced the risk of employment terms in workers’ contracts being unilaterally changed but have been unable to curb the levelling of recruitment fees.
To compensate for their inability, the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, the Qatari organizer of the World Cup, has obliged companies it contracts to repay the fees without workers having to provide proof of payment. Companies have so far pledged to repay roughly USD$28.5 million to some 49,000 workers, $22 million of which have already been paid out.
It is a step the government could apply nationally with relative ease in an effort to demonstrate sincerity and, more fundamentally, counter the criticism. Similarly, in response to complaints raised by human rights groups and others, the government could also offer to compensate families of workers who die on construction sites. None of these measures would put a dent in Qatari budgets but would earn the Gulf state immeasurable goodwill.
“The migrant workers injured or families of those who died in the build-up to the World Cup should be cared for,” said Lise Klaveness, the newly-elected president of the Norwegian Football Federation, at this week’s FIFA Congress in Doha.
Ms. Klaveness’ stirring speech drew a fiery response from Supreme Committee secretary-general Hassan Al-Thawadi. “We’re not seeking validation. Legacy is being delivered as we speak. We’ve showcased to the world what tournament hosting can do,” Mr. Al-Thawadi said.
Nevertheless, Qatar hasn’t done itself any favours with its handling of the case of Abdullah Ibhais, a Jordanian-Palestinian Supreme Committee communications executive, who opposed putting a spin on a strike by migrant workers, including some assigned to World Cup-related projects. The workers were on strike because their salaries had not been paid.
Mr. Ibhais was subsequently accused of leaking state secrets and awarding a social media tender to a Turkish bidder in return for Turkish citizenship. He asserts that he was forced to sign a confession and was initially refused access to a lawyer.
Mr. Ibhais was sentenced to five years in prison based on evidence that, according to Human Rights Watch, was “vague, circumstantial, and in some cases contradictory.” However, an appeals court subsequently reduced his sentence to three years in jail.
In a statement, the Supreme Committee insisted that the allegations against Mr. Ibhais had “merit. The committee contended that the assertion that the charges constitute retribution for “raising matters pertaining to workers’ welfare is absolutely false.”
In contrast to recurring rights issues that cast a shadow over the Qatari World Cup, Qatar garnered substantial goodwill during the 3.5-year-long United Arab Emirates-Saudi-led diplomatic and economic boycott designed to force the Gulf state to subjugate itself to the will of its detractors.
Perceived as the underdog confronted with demands that would have de facto deprived it of its independence, Qatar was lauded for its resilience and steadfastness that ultimately persuaded the UAE and Saudi Arabia to end the boycott in January 2021.
Since then, Qatar was awarded for its key role in assisting the United States in its bungled withdrawal from Afghanistan with the US nominating it as a ‘Major Non-NATO Ally.’
Qatar is the only Gulf state to enjoy that status. It ranks Qatar among the United States’ closest allies alongside Australia and Japan and opens the door to more joint military exercises and potential arms sales.
The nomination takes on added significance at a time that Gulf states worry about United States efforts to rejigger and reduce its security commitments in the region and strike a deal with Iran on reviving the 2015 nuclear agreement that curbed the Islamic republic’s nuclear program.
The deal would lift many US sanctions against Iran and return it to the international fold without addressing Iran’s ballistic missiles program and support for militias in Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen – issues that are major concerns for Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Israel.
Meanwhile, Qatar has earned brownie points in the Ukraine crisis despite keeping its lines open to Moscow and refraining from adopting US and European sanctions against Russia.
In contrast to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which refused US requests to increase oil production to stop prices from spiralling out of control, Qatar has started talks with Germany, France, Belgium, and Italy about long-term liquified natural gas supplies that would help Europe reduce its dependence on Russian energy.
“For the US, it is now all about Qatar and being friends with Qatar. What about your allies that have been by your side for years?” complained a Saudi official, clearly upset that Qatar was succeeding where the kingdom had failed.
“The Qataris are in a unique spot as a trusted player to a spectrum of actors that is almost unparalleled, from the White House to the Taliban to Iran to European gas consumers,” said Middle East scholar Adel Hamaizia.
All in all, Qatar has, in many ways, already put its best foot forward.
Nevertheless, human rights groups will view the final stretch to the World Cup scheduled for the end of the year as an opportunity to increase pressure on the Gulf state to address their remaining concerns.
The final stretch is not only an opportunity for activists. It also is an opportunity for Qatar to put its best foot forward on labour issues that it already acknowledges and has made significant strides in addressing.
Iranian Strategic Patience: Israel and the Soft Wars
Unfortunately, by tracking the pattern of strategies of many countries based on exaggerated interest in human rights, women’s and democracy issues in Iran (such as the case of the death of the Iranian girl Mahsa Amini), it is no longer possible to ignore the extent of the political, security and cultural exploitation that is taking place. This pattern was adopted previously in Syria, which led to its entry into the quagmire of war since 2011. Therefore, based on the presence of Iran in the same political direction, the same pattern was followed, as the issue is linked primarily to confronting Iran’s rising power.
In principle, there is a strategy that has become clear and known, it is based on cultural backgrounds whose main goal is to fragment societies from within (soft wars). As many countries (Israel in particular) cannot accept at all the reality of Iran’s presence as a major regional power. Where, despite all the sanctions policies pursued to isolate and marginalize Iran during the past 45 years, Iran was able to build its own strength and consolidate its regional influence.
Consequently, those countries that are hostile to Iran have no choice but to move towards exploiting some controversial issues within Iranian society related to human rights, women and democracy, in order to destabilize and weaken it. Accordingly, these countries moved towards the option of soft war through:
- Cultural penetration within Iranian society to tear apart its political structure.
- Supporting terrorist movements, including trying to reproduce a new ISIS.
In this context, there is a lot of evidence confirming these external interventions aimed at plunging Iran into internal conflicts and wars, including but not limited to:
- Seizing arms shipments coming from abroad, which coincided with the internal riots.
- Dismantling terrorist cells that were planning to assassinate figures of Arab origin and carry out terrorist operations in religious places in order to ignite a civil war.
- Arresting terrorist groups linked to foreign intelligence working to smuggle weapons.
Based on these facts, it seems that the main goal is to destroy the societal structure, exaggerate political polarization, and undermine security stability. So that Iran becomes more fragile and subject to division. Practically, the Iranian Republic is facing a hybrid war, whose political goal is based on confronting Iranian influence, where this influence is based on:
– Sticking to the nuclear program.
– Supporting the resistance movements in their confrontation with the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
– Being present in Syria and assisting the Syrian army in its war against terrorist movements.
– Supporting the Houthis in Yemen permanently.
– Consolidate influence in Iraq at all levels.
– Strategic rapprochement with both Russia and China.
Here, it must be recognized that the internal Iranian tensions are a winning card that the United States and Israel have tried to exploit to incite the Iranian people against the regime and clash with it. This new situation or challenge required the Iranian government to adopt a different vision on how to deal with such developments. Where the Iranian government and its security institutions followed a policy of restraint and not taking any provocative step that might lead to a clash. On the contrary, work has been done to:
1- Absorbing the anger of the people and allowing demonstrations.
2- Closely monitoring the security situation and controlling terrorist cells.
3- Revealing to Iranian society the dirty policies of mobilization and media incitement.
4- Evidence that many opposition movements are linked to the agenda of foreign countries.
5- Linking the internal events with the pattern based on the implementation of the Syrian model in Iran.
In this context, and regardless of the extent of the Iranian government’s ability to confront these soft wars, there are very serious political, cultural and internal security challenges that can no longer be ignored, and they require a reconsideration of many policies that were thought to have become axiomatic, including:
– It is no longer possible to pursue a policy that is based on holding Iranian governments accountable and neutralizing the Supreme Leader of the Revolution or the institution of the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist(Guardianship of the Faqih), from any responsibility.
– The existence of radical changes linked to security threats, which are no longer confined to the Israeli threat, but have extended to include terrorist movements.
– Increasing the complexities associated with foreign plans that seek to undermine the foundations of the Iranian state.
– Internal crises appear to be the most dangerous, and may lead to making strategic concessions at the level of the nuclear file, the Palestinian cause, and the relationship with Syria and the resistance movements.
In sum, the exaggerated interest in human rights issues comes in the context of the pressures that Iran has been exposed to for decades, to achieve geopolitical goals. However, according to how Iran faced the previous challenges, it seems that it is able to overcome the current difficulties, as the pillars of the state are still solid at all levels.
Furthermore, Iran’s ability to reassess its foreign relations should not be underestimated, based on the equation that Iran’s security is linked to the security of the region. Iran has many options that enhance this equation. There are multidimensional entitlements linked to the Iranian reality, whether in terms of the nuclear program or an increase in the intensity of the collision with Israel or energy security. For example, it is no longer possible to always rely on Iran’s continued restraint in Yemen, the resulting regional and global strategic repercussions, at least on the level of global energy security balances.
Not to mention that if Iran’s strategic patience runs out, it is not at all unlikely that Iran will directly target Israeli interests. Perhaps at some point the confrontation may be direct within occupied Palestine itself. As Iran is fully aware that all attempts to destabilize it cannot be separated at all from the reactions of Israel, which faces an existential danger after losing all its wars with the axis of resistance that is fully and unlimitedly supported by the Iranian Republic.
From our partner RIAC
Resumption of Saudi-Iranian relations, motives, and repercussions on the Middle East region
After 7 years of diplomatic estrangement between Saudi Arabia and Iran, recently announced in a joint statement between Tehran, Riyadh and Beijing that the two countries agreed to turn the page on their differences and normalize relations that have witnessed many tensions over the past decade. The two sides agreed to respect the sovereignty of states and not to interfere in their internal affairs, to resume relations and to reopen their embassies within a maximum period of two months. Tehran and Riyadh also agreed to the activation of their 2001 security cooperation agreement as well as their 1998 general agreement for collaboration in the areas of economy, commerce, business, technology, science, culture, sports, and youth.
The Saudi-Iranian agreement is considered the most important diplomatic event in the region during the past years, if it is adhered to, and it will have many repercussions and indications on the conflict-ridden Middle East region. After numerous unresolved rounds in Iraq and Oman in the years 2021–2022, the announcement of the agreement from Beijing is an unparalleled success for Chinese diplomacy, with significant repercussions on the international and regional arena. The agreement is a change in China’s strategy and foreign policy and an important geopolitical breach in the Gulf region, which will enable it to play an important and major strategic and pivotal role with the decline of the American role, which was the main player in the region.
Iran and Saudi Arabia have grown more aware of the necessity of a diplomatic resolution at this time and are more willing to do so, especially after the entry of China with its comprehensive strategic relations with the two parties, which played a significant role in bringing the parties’ differing points of view closer together following years of protracted negotiations. Each of the parties has its own reasons for reaching this diplomatic agreement. On the Iranian side, Iran is now in need of easing the external international isolation and calmed the situation inside Iran after the deterioration of the situation and the demands of the people to overthrow the regime there. Iran also felt the danger approaching after the halt of nuclear talks with the US side and the constant Israeli threat of a possible military strike to stop its nuclear program, and it is now trying to neutralize the Gulf side and relieve the increasing pressure on it.
On the other hand, Saudi Arabia wanted to get out of this dilemma and having any role in the event that Iran will be targeted, which might make it and the rest of the Gulf countries vulnerable to danger. As a result, many Arab and Gulf countries declared their refusal to join any armed alliance against Iran prior to Biden’s visit to the Kingdom.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has also recently realized the failure of the United States to fulfill its promises to secure the Kingdom, especially in the wake of the attacks that targeted various important infrastructures in the Kingdom over the past few years. While it was anticipated that Washington would respond forcefully and firmly, Washington removed the Patriot batteries from the Kingdom and demonstrated that it had lost the ability to do anything to stop Iran and its arms in the region, despite the repeated targeting during the administrations of both American parties under Trump and Biden. Therefore, it is possible that Saudi Arabia tried playing it differently and went for a political deal that would spare it the negative effects of the conflict with Iran and the betrayal of its allies.
The relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia is clearly deteriorating, and the gap has grown since Riyadh recently refused to increase oil production despite Biden’s visit to the Kingdom, which Washington interprets as Saudi support for Russia in financing its war on Ukraine.
There has also been a discernible shift in Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy, favoring negotiation over conflict and emphasizing economic growth. As a result, Saudi Arabia has tried to improve ties with the majority of its regional rivals recently, as was the case with Turkey. The political solution with Iran may have been reached after all other options had been exhausted, the most recent of which was direct involvement in Yemen to assist the Yemeni government in its fight against the Iranian-backed Houthis.
It is obvious that there will be many shocks in the days to come. The decline in US-Saudi ties and Saudi Arabia’s openness to China and Russia could change the balance of power in the region and the world. The Iranian-Saudi deal, which was supported by China, was also a serious setback for the United States of America and its ally Israel, which may force the United States to change its foreign policy and rearrange its cards again to restore its influence in the region, after it witnessed a major shift towards East Asia, away from the Middle East and the Arabian Gulf.
The Iranian-Saudi deal, if it is upheld and carried out by both parties, will have great and positive repercussions on the Middle East region, which has been enflamed by conflicts for many years, and will mark the beginning of a political solution to many heated and crisis files in the region such as, the Yemeni, Syrian, and Lebanese crises.
This agreement between the two major regional players in the region will not be the end of all of their conflicts, but it is an important step towards developing common visions for thorny issues in a way that contributes to resolving the internal crises of many countries in the region, which may need a long time to be resolved, due to the lack of trust between the two sides, as well as the existence of International and regional countries which are not satisfied with the agreement and will try hard to thwart it.
The commitment of the two parties to the deal and the impact it will have on the regional and international situation will become more clear in the coming months, as well as whether it will result in stability and security in the region or spark new, more complicated confrontations.
Saudi sports blitz encounters headwinds
Saudi Arabia’s sports blitz is encountering headwinds.
Activists, athletes, and the soccer associations of Australia and New Zealand will celebrate their thwarting of world football body FIFA’s plans to accept Saudi Arabia’s tourism authority as a sponsor of this year’s Women’s World Cup.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino admitted as much at a news conference convened this week shortly after he was re-elected unopposed for a third term, even if he belittled it as “a storm in a teacup.”
Nevertheless, the thwarting sent a rare message that money can buy a lot but not everything.
It constituted the first setback in a string of successful Saudi bids to sponsor or host everything under the sporting sun.
Despite its abominable and worsening human rights record, Saudi Arabia has secured hosting rights for the Asian Football Confederation’s 2027 AFC Cup, the Olympic Council of Asia’s 2029 Asian Winter Games, and the 2034 Asian Games.
A regional human rights group, ALQST for Human Rights, has asserted that at least 47 members of the Howeitat tribe in Saudi Arabia have been arrested for resisting eviction to make way for Neom, a US500 billion futuristic science fiction-like region under development on the Red Sea.
Trojena, a mountainous part of Neom, is where the Winter Games are scheduled to be held.
Saudi Arabia is also bidding to host the 2026 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, and, together with Greece and Egypt, the 2030 World Cup.
The World Cup, like this year’s women’s tournament, is likely to produce headwinds. Not only because it involves not one, but two of the world’s most serious violators of human rights, but also because it will encounter stiff competition.
A joint bid by Morocco, Spain, and Portugal could prove to be a serious challenge on multiple fronts to the Saudi-led effort.
It represents a trans-continental bid that, unlike the Saudi-led proposition, is not designed to circumvent FIFA’s practice of spreading out the tournament across continents.
On its own, Saudi Arabia, as a Middle Eastern state, would not stand a chance so short after last year’s World Cup in Qatar.
The circumvention element is borne out by the kingdom’s willingness to fund all of Greece and Egypt’s World Cup-related expenses in exchange for the right to host three-quarters of the tournament’s matches in Saudi Arabia.
Moreover, the Moroccan-Spanish-Portuguese bid is likely to spark less controversy than its Saudi-led competitor.
While Qatar demonstrated that human and migrant rights criticism need not put a serious dent in the reputational benefits of hosting a sporting mega-event, it also showed that once a focal point of attention, always a focal point of attention.
Three months after the Qatar World Cup final, one million people signed a petition demanding the Gulf state compensate workers and/or their families who had been injured or died or suffered human rights abuse while working on tournament-related projects.
For Morocco, winning the bid would have special significance. Coming on the back of its darling status during the Qatar World Cup, a win would amount to payback for Saudi opposition to Morocco’s failed effort to secure the 2026 tournament hosting rights.
Saudi Arabia supported the winning US-Canadian-Mexican bid as a way of punishing Morocco for its refusal to back the 3.5-year-long UAE-Saudi-led diplomatic and economic boycott of Qatar. The boycott was lifted in early 2021.
Perhaps the strongest headwinds the kingdom’s sports effort has encountered emanate from its controversial creation of LIV Golf, a US$405 million, 14-tournament league, to compete with PGA Tour, the longstanding organizer of the sport’s flagship events.
LIV Golf is “an exercise in public relations. A foreign government’s dollars are being used to enhance that government’s brand and positioning here in the United States,” US Congressman Chip Roy, a Texas Republican, said.
Even worse, circumvention was at the core of a ruling last month by a US federal judge ordering Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), to answer questions and produce evidence as part of the discovery process in a legal battle between LIV and PGA. The PIF funds LIV Golf.
The discovery could cast a spotlight on the secretive fund’s decision-making. The fund’s powerful governor, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, is a Cabinet-level official.
Judge Susan van Keulen’s ruling rejected an attempt by the PIF and Mr. Al-Rumayyan to evade turning over information connected to the courtroom battle because they allegedly enjoyed sovereign immunity as a state institution and official.
Earlier, US District Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman, an avid golfer, ruled that the PIF and Mr. Al-Rumayyan fell under a commercial exception to US laws on sovereign immunity.
Some analysts suggest that Mr. Roy’s comment and the judges’ rulings could lead to LIV Golf being deemed a foreign influence campaign.
This would mean that its employees in the United States would have to register as foreign agents under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, or FARA.
The rulings call into question assurances provided in 2021 to England’s Premier League to assuage concerns that the PIF’s acquisition of England’s Newcastle United Football Club would put it under the control of the Saudi state.
The League’s chief executive, Richard Masters, said at the time that the Premier League had been given “legally binding assurances that essentially the state will not be in charge of the club” and that if there was “evidence to the contrary, we can remove the consortium as owners of the club.”
The League has so far refrained from taking the PIF to task in the wake of the US rulings because the Newcastle agreement stipulated that the Saudi state would not exercise control over Newcastle, not that it would not have the ability to do so.
Lawyers for Newcastle said there would only be a case if the Saudi state used its power to intervene in the club’s affairs.
“There’s an unmistakable irony in the sovereign wealth fund declaration emerging in a dispute about another arm of Saudi Arabia’s growing sports empire, but the simple fact is that Saudi sportswashing is affecting numerous sports, and governing bodies need to respond to it far more effectively,” said Peter Frankental, an Amnesty International executive.
Pakistan: Not a Rebirth but a Suicide of a Nation
Pakistan as a country, already on life support is in critical need of insane asylum-style electric shock therapies, stripped-naked mud...
Terrorism a Collective Problem and its Challenges
Terrorism has become a global problem that affects everyone regardless of race, religion, or nationality. The recent US report that...
The impact of AUKUS against China and Russia on the security of Asia and the world
The United States, the United Kingdom and Australia revealed the details of a joint plan aimed at establishing a new...
The Impact of Crypto-Assets on Governments and the International Community: A Forecast for 2035
As the financial and technological sphere rapidly develops, it will increasingly impact the entire globe, including global governance structures, and...
Iranian Strategic Patience: Israel and the Soft Wars
Unfortunately, by tracking the pattern of strategies of many countries based on exaggerated interest in human rights, women’s and democracy...
Accelerating the Use of Digital Technologies is Key to Boosting Economic Growth in Africa
With Africa’s share of the global workforce projected to become the largest in the world by 2100, it is critical...
Economic Diversification Away from Oil is Crucial for the Republic of Congo
Economic diversification away from oil is crucial for reversing recent economic setbacks in the Republic of Congo and put the...
Finance3 days ago
NYP: The US dollar has become an at-risk currency
Middle East4 days ago
China and the Saudi-Iranian agreement: Curtailing the U.S. – Israel influence in the Middle East
World News4 days ago
POLITICO: The U.S.-Ukraine war unity is slowly cracking apart
Intelligence3 days ago
High-Altitude Espionage (Spy Balloon) and India’s National Security
Finance4 days ago
SVB fall: This is the financial catastrophe, but it’s just getting started
East Asia4 days ago
Organizational structures in formulating China’s decisions to manage international affairs Under Xi Jinping
East Asia4 days ago
India and South Korea: An Alliance for the Asian Century
Energy2 days ago
The Maneuvering Of Gas Commodities As Securitization Of Russia’s Geopolitical Position