Saturday, June 24, 2017

Qatar is giving Saudi and the UAE a masterclass in international diplomacy


By Yvonne Ridley


When it comes to international diplomacy, Saudi Arabia and its friends in the Gulf have the grace of a ballerina wearing hobnailed boots. Weighed down by their own sense of self-importance, these petulant male-dominated regimes are used to getting their own way and few will stand up to them. Even their friends in the West, fuelled by greed and super arms deals, are too afraid to rein in the corrupt overlords who rule their people with a rod of iron.
Acting as a mediator, Kuwait has now presented Qatar with a list of demands from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt after all four cut ties with the tiny state on 5 June. One of the demands is for Qatar to shut down Al-Jazeera. To those of us with long memories, this will come as no surprise, because Saudi Arabia simply cannot tolerate criticism and it has a track record of attacking unfavourable media exposure.
In 1980, for example, the government in Riyadh threatened governments, politicians and TV corporations across the globe if they dared to broadcast a TV docudrama, Death of a Princess. The Saudis tried to intimidate Britain with economic sanctions, including the withholding of oil supplies, and recalled their ambassador from London. In the US, oil-rich companies threatened to withdraw sponsorship and advertising from TV stations if the programme was broadcast. A Middle East state attempting to gag the world? Yes, that is exactly what Saudi Arabia was doing.
As it turned out, the broadcast did go ahead and revealed details of the 1977 execution of Princess Mishaal Bint Fahd Bin Mohammed, a granddaughter of the then Saudi king’s elder brother. She was executed in public for adultery, as was her alleged lover Khalid Mahallal.
The Saudi government was outraged. More than a decade later, in 1996, the BBC was forced to close down its Arabic section following pressure from Riyadh when the Saudis again sought to suppress a documentary exposing more executions in the country. Around 250 journalists lost their jobs
This turned out to be a massive own goal by the Saudis; the BBC-trained, highly skilled journalists were bankrolled by the then Emir of Qatar and launched the media phenomenon that is Al-Jazeera. The subsequent heroic journalism of the Arabic section set the gold standard in war reporting back in 2001; Al-Jazeera was the only broadcaster inside Afghanistan after the horrific events of 9/11 and the launch of the “War on Terror”.
It was the Arab Spring, though, which came to define both the Arabic and English sections of Al-Jazeera, with its coverage of the revolutions. As dictators were toppled in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Yemen, the network gave a live, round-the-clock voice to the protestors that they would never have enjoyed under the regimes which had brutalised them. This desire for freedom sent shock waves across the region, especially the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
I should declare a personal interest here; I worked as a senior editor in Al-Jazeera’s Doha headquarters throughout the Iraq war and was sacked for being overly combative with some of my bosses as we developed and launched the English website. For the record, I sued for unfair dismissal in Qatar and won my case and both subsequent appeals in Doha courts. Despite our differences, I will defend the professionalism of Al-Jazeera, the dedication of its staff and their fearless efforts to bring the unvarnished truth to the outside world. It’s not an easy job when both America and Arab neighbours try to influence editorial content.
Al-Jazeera’s correspondents and producers have over the years been harassed, arrested, beaten and even killed in the line of duty. In 2005, it was rumoured that US President George W Bush had discussed bombing the network’s studio in Doha during a meeting with Tony Blair, before being persuaded that it was “a bad idea”. However the US did bomb Al-Jazeera’s bureaus in Kabul in November 2001 and Baghdad in April 2003. The latter took place despite the network having provided the Pentagon with map co-ordinates of the office’s location; journalist Tareq Ayoub was killed when US missiles destroyed the building.
It’s true that the network’s news output rarely covers events in Qatar but it is definitely not a passive mouthpiece for the ruling family; as far as I could ascertain, editorial interference was non-existent. Many supporters of a free media around the world must be hoping that the Qatari government will show greater resolve than previous British governments, which have made extraordinary decisions to appease the prickly egos of the royal families in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain.
Al-Jazeera is not the only media outlet targeted by these three countries (plus Egypt); they want Qatar to close others funded by the oil- and gas-rich Gulf State, either directly or indirectly, including Arabi21RassdAl-Araby Al-Jadeed and Middle East Eye. Jesus is said to have told his disciples, “The truth will set you free.” He was targeted by the oppressive regime of his day; 2000 years later little has changed in the region when it comes to delivering the truth to the masses.
Qatar is also being told to cut all ties with “terrorist organisations”, of which the Muslim Brotherhood is alleged to be one. Again the UAE and Saudi have form on this sort of thing; they exerted pressure on David Cameron in his early days as British Prime Minister to expose the movement as a terrorist group. Rather than jeopardise lucrative trade deals with Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, Cameron commissioned a report about the Brotherhood; to his embarrassment, it found no evidence or suggestion of illegal activity by the movement.
Fearful of the reaction from the Gulf, Cameron shelved the report until pressure mounted for its publication. Leaving absolutely no time for debate, the prime minister published the long-delayed document just hours before MPs left Westminster for the Christmas recess in 2015.
Although it was accepted that the Brotherhood is a legitimate political group, Cameron said that officials will “intensify scrutiny of the views and activities” of the movement, because some aspects “run counter to British values”. As I pointed out in MEMO at the time, the governments of the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt also operate “counter” to British values.
“The origin of the investigation and review makes for uncomfortable reading thanks to some investigative work by the Guardian newspaper,” I wrote. “We know, for example, that it was conceived after Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince, Shaikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, met Cameron at Number 10 and was briefed to express the UAE’s ‘concern’ after the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi was declared Egypt’s first democratically elected president in June 2012.” No doubt a great deal of diplomatic language was used, I continued, but, in essence, it appears that Cameron agreed to commission a report on the Muslim Brotherhood to pacify the UAE, which offered Britain some lucrative business deals in return.
In documents seen by the newspaper, it appears that the UAE deals were likely to generate billions of pounds for BAE Systems and allow BP to bid for drilling rights in the Gulf. On a visit to Abu Dhabi in 2014, Sir John Jenkins — one of the authors of the government’s flawed report — was apparently told that the trust between Britain and the Emirates “has been challenged due to the UK position towards the Muslim Brotherhood [because] our ally [Britain] is not seeing it as we do: an existential threat not just to the UAE but to the region.”
While Western governments have buckled under pressure from Saudi and the UAE — Egypt under Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has lost its regional clout and Bahrain is more interested in soft power — I’m hopeful that Qatar will stand firm. What the state lacks in size, it more than compensates in terms of power and influence, sitting on the third-largest natural gas reserves in the world.
Qatar’s ruling Al-Thani family has been at the helm for nearly 200 years and in that time the state, which shares a border with Saudi, has grown steadily in stature on the global stage. Its government endeared itself to the American people when it donated hundreds of millions of dollars to the victims of Hurricane Katrina; bolstered the peace process in Darfur; brokered a deal between rival Lebanese militias; and, long before Saudi Arabia’s military interference, helped to reduce tribal tensions in Yemen.
It also took a lead role in the Arab Spring. Qatar was the only state in the Middle East to support the Egyptian people in their uprising before joining in military action against Gaddafi’s Libya, providing funding for the rebels and even military aircraft for the NATO-led bombing campaign. The UAE and Saudi backed Al-Sisi and support the remnants of Gaddafi’s regime in Libya.
While Western-style democracy is absent from their own political landscape, democracy per se appears to hold no fear for Emir Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani and his government. Elsewhere, Qatar has pushed the Arab League’s efforts to sanction and isolate Syria and this has also upset its Gulf neighbours, as it looks to have replaced the Saudis in terms of regional leadership.
If people are known by the company they keep, the same could be said of governments, and so it is interesting to note that among those lining up to cheer the Saudi leadership is Israel, which clearly supports the move against Qatar. “The Sunni Arab countries, apart from Qatar,” claimed former defence minister Moshe Ya’alon, “are largely in the same boat with us.” Revelling in the regional turmoil is US-born former Israeli ambassador Michael Oren, who tweeted: “No longer Israel against Arabs but Israel and Arabs against Qatar-financed terror.”
It is, of course, a cheap allegation to throw at anyone, because proof of “supporting terror” is rarely provided. When Israel jumped on the post-9/11 “War on Terror” bandwagon, legitimate resistance to its military occupation of Palestine was labelled as “global terrorism”; it’s a slander and narrative that has stuck.
The Arab quartet’s moves against Qatar didn’t stop US warships taking part in exercises with the Qatari Navy on 15 June. Could it be that the Pentagon knows that the allegations are without foundation; that, indeed, when everyone is “a terrorist” or “terror supporter” then, in reality, nobody is? The impact of the word terrorism has been neutralised with its too-frequent use by people who really should know better.
The new friends of Saudi Arabia and the UAE in Israel tell us all we need to know about the real reasons behind the Arab blockade of tiny Qatar. They have nothing to do with “terrorism”, but everything to do with protecting Israel, blunting the effectiveness of the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, and shuffling the Palestinian issue off the Arab agenda.
By maintaining a calm dignity in the face of these attacks, Qatar is giving the Saudis and their allies a masterclass in international diplomacy. Whether it will do Emir Tamim and his government any good or not remains to be seen, but they deserve our admiration and support for standing up for freedom of thought; emphasising the ongoing importance of Palestine to the Muslim world; and defending the integrity of Qatar’s sovereignty.

المهنية وحرية التعبير بوصفهما خصماً: بيان "العربي الجديد"

المهنية وحرية التعبير بوصفهما خصماً....بيان "العربي الجديد"


طرحت حكومات الدول الأربع التي ترتكب حصاراً على دولة قطر منذ الخامس من يونيو/ حزيران الحالي ثلاثة عشر مطلباً، قالت إن على الحكومة القطرية تنفيذها خلال عشرة أيام، تضمّنت إغلاق منابر إعلامية، منها صحيفة وموقع "العربي الجديد". وإننا، إذ نستهجن هذا التعدّي السافر على مبدأ حرية الإعلام، وهذا التجاوز البالغ المتضمن في هذه الممارسة غير المسبوقة في علاقات الدول ببعضها، نرفض في "العربي الجديد" هذا التطاول الذي عمدت إليه حكومات الإمارات والسعودية والبحرين ومصر على حقنا في مزاولتنا مهنة الإعلام، بحريةٍ تضمنها لنا مواثيقُ ومعاهداتٌ وقوانين دولية، ونؤكد، في الوقت نفسه، أن زجّنا، ومنابر إعلامية زميلة، في خلافٍ سياسي، إنما يتصل بضيق الحكومات الأربع بحرية الرأي والتعبير، ومواصلتها خنق مساحات هذه الحرية، الأمر الذي عرّض "العربي الجديد" وهي صحيفة مهنية موضوعية في نهجها إلى الحجب والحظر في بلدان هذه الحكومات، والذي يتبدى الآن أنه غير كافٍ بالنسبة لها، فتظنّ أن إشهار مطلب إغلاق الموقع ووقف الصحيفة سيُسكتنا، ويُرهبنا، فيما الأدعى أن تعرف دول الحصار أن التزامنا أمام جمهورنا، ووفاءنا له، هما ما يحكمان عملنا، ولا شيء غيرهما. 

ومع الانتهاك الصارخ الذي تُعلنه حكومات الحصار للإعلان العالمي لحقوق الإنسان المصادق عليه من الجمعية العامة للأمم المتحدة، في مطلب هذه الحكومات المذكور، والذي يشتمل أيضاً على خرق فاضح للعهد الدولي الخاص بالحقوق المدنية والسياسية المعتمد من الأمم المتحدة، عدا عن اتفاقيات دولية، حقوقية وثقافية، صادقت عليها بعض دول الحصار نفسها، فإن "العربي الجديد" تأمل من المجتمع الحقوقي، العربي والدولي، الردّ على حكومات المملكة العربية السعودية ودولة الإمارات ومملكة البحرين وجمهورية مصر، وإعلامها جميعها، بالوسائل كلها، بأنه ليس من حق أيّ منها إطلاقاً هذا السلوك المستهجن والمستنكر ضد "العربي الجديد"، وكذا الصحف والفضائيات والمواقع الإلكترونية الزميلة التي تطالب هذه الدولة بسرعة إيقاف عملها، بلغةٍ تتضمن وعيداً وإنذاراً. وإذ نثمّن بتقدير كبير رفض منظمات ومؤسسات حقوقية، وناشطة في مجال الإعلام، التجرؤ الذي بدا في ما طالبت به هذه الدول بشأن وسائل إعلام عربية، بزعم أن دولة قطر تدعمها، فإننا على ثقةٍ بأن هذه المنظمات والمؤسسات لن تتوقف في عملها 
من أجل حماية حريات التعبير التي تتعرّض لمختلف صنوف التضييق في العالم العربي، وخصوصاً من دول الحصار على قطر.

 ومعلومٌ لدينا، ولدى غيرنا، أن بعض حكومات الدول الأربع تُصدر وتموّل منابر إعلامية، تلفزاتٍ وصحفاً ومواقع إلكترونية، في بلدها وفي أوروبا وفي غير دولة عربية، ولا تكفّ هذه المنابر عن إشاعة خطاب الكراهية، والمنحط غالباً، من دون احترامٍ لأبسط أخلاقيات المهنة الإعلامية، غير أننا في "العربي الجديد" لم نسقط في إشهار مطلب إسكات هذه المنابر، ولم ندعُ الحكومة المعنية إلى تدخلٍ يوقف الكذب والتدليس اليومي والتشهير والتحريض الشخصي الذي واظبت عليه هذه المنابر المعلومة، لأننا لا نشغل أنفسنا بأمرٍ كهذا، وقناعةً منا بأن الجمهور العربي على وعيٍ كافٍ بما يحترم عقول أفراده، وبأنه قادرٌ على رمي كل ابتذالٍ بعيداً عنه، وبأنه معنيٌّ بما ينشغل بتطلعاته وأشواقه إلى الحرية وإلى الثقافة النقدية، وإلى تطوير ملكاته في التفكير والاجتهاد والتحليل، في شؤون الاجتماع والسياسة. إيماناً منا بأن الأخلاق في ممارسة الإعلام وحدها هي الوسيلة الأنجع والأنجح لتحقيق التأثير الذي ينشده أي منبر إعلامي. وليس اعتداداً بالذات فقط، ما يجعلنا في "العربي الجديد" نلحّ على أننا لم نخرج يوماً عن هذه الحقيقة، وإنما أيضاً ما حازه منبرنا، منذ إطلاقه في مارس/ آذار 2014، من حضورٍ محترم في الفضاء الإعلامي العربي، وبنظافةٍ مهنيةٍ مؤكدة، لا يعرفها إعلامٌ كثيرٌ في الدول التي تحاصر قطر، عوينت ممارسته الساقطة في غضون الأزمة الحادثة في الخليج.

 نتمسّك بأخلاقنا المهنية أولاً، وبانحيازنا إلى قارئنا وجمهورنا، ولا نكترث بأي غبارٍ تتوسله حكومات دول الحصار، لتخويفنا، عندما تعمد إلى وضعنا في قائمة شروطها على دولة قطر، لمنعنا من قول ما نعتنقه من قيم الحرية والعدالة والتنوير، ومن إيمانٍ بأن آمال الشعوب العربية بالحرية والديمقراطية تستحق أن تُحمى دائماً، ونظننا في "العربي الجديد" في طليعة من يقوم بهذا الدور، في هذه المرحلة الحرجة من تاريخ أمتنا العربية.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Guardian view on al-Jazeera: muzzling journalism

In the Arab world, freedom of speech is being curbed to stop old and new media from raising questions about the way in which countries are run. This is wrong

Guardian Editorial
Al-Jazeera logo

In the conservative autocracies of the middle east, Qatar, a wealthy gas-rich emirate, has built up a reputation as a maverick, epitomised by its ownership of the al-Jazeera satellite television channel, which has often infuriated many Arab leaders. Since the TV station gave voice to the Arab spring, many autocrats no doubt wished it would be taken off air, permanently. Al-Jazeera, which arrived long before the internet in the region, broke the mould by reaching directly into Arab living rooms. Along with social media, al-Jazeera has in recent years stirred public opinion in ways Arab governments could not ignore. But now Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates think they can silence it with a blockade of Qatar that will only be lifted if al-Jazeera is shut down.
This is ridiculous. Qatar’s neighbours want to gag media that raises questions about the way these nations are run. Al-Jazeera is not perfect. Its Arabic outlet has been accused in the past of being antisemitic and partisan. It rarely criticises Qatar’s absolute monarchy. However, Qatar abolished formal censorship two decades ago. By comparison, in 2012 the UAE demanded David Cameron rein in adverse BBC coverage or it would halt lucrative arms deals. Abu Dhabi is a regional media player. The UAE’s deputy prime minister owns Sky News Arabia, along with Rupert Murdoch’s broadcaster. According to observers this station put out fake news about Qatar’s ruler.
The internet has also provided Arab rulers new ways to control the flow of information. Many Gulf states, says Human Rights Watch, are now trying to silence critics after a wave of online activism. Tweeters praising Qatar in Bahrain, the UAE and Saudi Arabia face either jail or steep fines. The attack on al-Jazeera is part of an assault on free speech to subvert the impact of old and new media in the Arab world. It should be condemned and resisted.

ما وراء الخبر-المطالب الـ13 لدول الحصار قانونيا وسياسيا

فوق السلطة - إبليس يحتج !

Bonfire of vanities: Saudi demands expose fear and loathing of Qatar

A Saudi-led alliance has a list of 13 demands to end the blockade on Qatar. Middle East Eye sifts their content


Saudi Arabia and its allies have issued 13 demands for Qatar to meet if a blockade is to be lifted. But the list shows their main concern is not Qatar's financing of terrorists and cosying up to Iran, but instead a combustible mix of existential fear and attempts to diminish Doha's influence and wealth.
Also clear, given the contradictions and incorrect claims, is that the list was prepared haphazardly after the international community and the Muslim world remained sceptical of Saudi and UAE motives for imposing the blockade on Qatar.
Notable for its absence is any demands regarding Hamas - the Palestinian group which Saudi Arabia and its allies have called "extremist" during the five weeks of diplomatic crisis.
Middle East Eye, which too finds itself targeted in the list, has sifted through each demand in detail, in order.
Demand 1: Curb diplomatic ties with Iran and close its diplomatic missions there. Expel members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard and cut off any joint military cooperation with Iran. Only trade and commerce with Iran that complies with US and international sanctions will be permitted.   
The ties between Qatar and Iran are by no means those of allies. Qatar and Iran share a major natural gas field, which means Doha has to maintain minimal ties with Tehran and cannot take the ultra-hawkish Saudi position.
Doha and Tehran are at opposite ends of the ideological spectrum. This is clearest in Syria, where Shia Muslim Iran backs the Assad government while Sunni Muslim Doha supports Turkish-backed rebel forces. In this light, it becomes difficult to give credence to claims of military cooperation between Doha and Tehran.  
As for trade, the UAE is one of Tehran's biggest trade partners. The UAE played a major role in helping Tehran bust US and international sanctions by facilitating a gold-for-oil deal. Recent media reports based on Turkish statistics indicate that this sanctions-busting gold trade could still be ongoing.  
Demand 2: Immediately terminate the Turkish military presence currently in Qatar and end any joint military cooperation with Turkey inside of Qatar.
Turkey has taken pains to assure other Gulf countries that any Turkish military presence in the Gulf is not to threaten any of them but to provide a bulwark against unspecified "common threats", which could potentially include Iran, making the Saudi demand for withdrawal contrary to its own interests.
There are a few dozen Turkish troops in Doha. Seeing a tiny Turkish presence as a bigger threat than Iran's easy reach across the Gulf at any point also reveals the real motive of the demand is to wrest Qatar of its sovereignty.
For Doha to accept this demand would mean allowing interference in its sovereign affairs. Turkey, too, is unlikely to even entertain such thoughts given its determination to not allow third-party meddling in its affairs.
Although highly unlikely, any decision on troop withdrawal from Turkey would come as a result of domestic pressure, where critics have been questioning the need for a Turkish base there since details of the deal began to emerge in 2014. Domestic critics have called the base a projection of the neo-Ottoman dreams held by the Turkish president.      
Turkish troops arrive in Doha (Reuters)
Demand 3:  Sever all ties to 'terrorist organisations' - specifically the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic State group, al-Qaeda, and Lebanon's Hezbollah. Formally declare those entities as terrorist groups.
Doha might be the victim of its own ambitions and of Western betrayal here. Right from the post-9/11 days when Qatar agreed to the Afghan Taliban opening a representation office in Qatar with Western blessing, the tiny Gulf country looked to be the neutral venue where even the harshest of adversaries could meet and talk.
Qatar did not even recognise the Taliban between 1996 and 2001.
With the exception of IS and al-Qaeda, Doha has looked to maintain its role as a neutral and safe venue for potential talks by allowing the presence of representatives of movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood on its territory.
The Saudis and other Gulf countries view the Muslim Brotherhood as the main threat to their continued existence but the international community – including Britain and the US - has strong reservations over designating the non-violent movement as "terrorist".
Doha is going to be hard-pressed to accept this demand given that it even succeeded in convincing the Palestinian group Hamas to amend its charter and adopt a softer and more positive tone.  
Demand 4: Stop all means of funding for individuals, groups or organisations that have been designated as terrorists by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, the US and other countries.      
Qatar has rejected claims of such funding from the very first moment they were made. No evidence has been provided for such alleged funding.
Including the US in this demand indicates the tenuous nature of the claim. The US does not need the Saudi-led coalition to make demands on its behalf. The US recently signed a $22bn fighter jet deal with Qatar, something it would not do if it believed Qatar was an enemy, and nor would it continue to base 10,000 troops there.
Demand 5: Hand over 'terrorist figures' and wanted individuals from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain to their countries of origin. Freeze their assets, and provide any desired information about their residency, movements and finances.
Again there is no indication that Qatar has refused to cooperate with its Gulf Cooperation Council members within the framework of existing agreements or bilateral agreements with these states, including extradition agreements.
It is a demand Qatar might find difficult to accept if it wants to continue its role as a neutral and fair interlocutor and venue for negotiations between various feuding factions, especially if they represent non-violent movements.
Demand 6: Shut down Al Jazeera and its affiliate stations.
Soon after its establishment, Qatar's state-funded Al Jazeera network quickly became the region's only broadcaster able to provide coverage on a par with its established Western counterparts. A huge budget and a drive to recruit the best journalists from around the globe increased its stature. 
The network's stance, however, often meant it was rejected both by the West as being too Muslim-focused and by the region's despots as inciting revolt.
In fairness to Saudi concerns, the network's Arabic-language channel has pushed a stronger line backing popular street movements in the region making the Saudis, the Emiratis and others nervous.
The Al Jazeera network has reflected the view of the royal palace, and has been careful to tame its coverage of Yemen in Saudi Arabia's favour to reflect its neighbour's current anti-Iran policies. The channel's coverage of domestic issues, such as modern slavery, has been muted.
Al Jazeera's main studio in Doha (AFP)
Demand 7: End interference in sovereign countries' internal affairs. Stop granting citizenship to wanted nationals from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. Revoke Qatari citizenship for existing nationals where such citizenship violates those countries' laws.  
A demand that is vague and will prove difficult to monitor even if it is the case. Conversely, the presentation of such a list of demands in itself can be construed as interference in Qatar's sovereign affairs.
Given the intricate family and tribal links between the nationals of Gulf countries, multiple citizenship is common and depriving citizenship rights to individuals without enough evidence warranting it could lead to grave human rights violations.
Demand 8: Pay reparations and compensation for loss of life and other, financial losses caused by Qatar's policies in recent years. The sum will be determined in coordination with Qatar.
Another vaguely and highly-contestable demand. With no specific compensation sums or the amount of financial loss mentioned, and also no concrete evidence, it makes it impossible for any independent state to accept.
Demand 9: Align itself with the other Gulf and Arab countries militarily, politically, socially and economically, as well as on economic matters, in line with an agreement reached with Saudi Arabia in 2014.  
Qatar is already part of the Saudi-led Islamic military alliance. It is also a fully-integrated member of the GCC. Its economic interests as a major exporter of hydrocarbons means its economic direction is aligned with that of Saudi Arabia.
The only difference appears to be Doha's refusal to adopt the same tone as the Saudis on Iran due to its shared South Pars gas field, and Qatar's backing of popular democratic movements across the region, excluding the Gulf.
This might prove to be one of the demands Doha will find easier and more practical to comply with if the blockade against it is lifted first.   
Demand 10: Stop all contacts with the political opposition in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. Hand over all files detailing Qatar's prior contacts with and support for those opposition groups.
More signs of a hastily cobbled-together list of demands. Any political opposition in the mentioned countries are strictly monitored by these repressive governments. No evidence has been provided to justify claims of such Qatari actions.
There is little to indicate that Qatar would stand to gain by fomenting trouble in its own backyard. In fact, it would stand to lose as its routes to export natural gas, its biggest source of revenue, would be jeopardised.
Demand 11: Shut down news outlets that Qatar funds, directly and indirectly, including Arabi21, Rassd, Al Araby Al-Jadeed and Middle East Eye.
MEE is an independently-funded London-based news site dedicated to providing in-depth, impartial and factual coverage of the Middle East.
Reports from countries such as Turkey, Iraq, Syria show that MEE is dedicated to objectivity. It has not hesitated from critical reporting of Qatar allies such as Turkey when provable by facts. It has not spared Qatar either, for instance a series of articles on the ill-treatment of foreign workers used to build its infrastructure.
MEE has also not shied away from covering issues of regional importance that place Riyadh and Abu Dhabi in a very poor light, resulting in access to the site being blocked in those countries and becoming a target of their ire.  
Demand 12: Agree to all the demands within 10 days of it being submitted to Qatar, or the list becomes invalid.
It is unlikely that Doha will even be able to evaluate these demands, which often seek to deprive it of its sovereignty or involve instances that don't concern the country such as the demand to shut the MEE, within 10 days let alone agree to any or some of them.
Demand 13: Consent to monthly audits for the first year after agreeing to the demands, then once per quarter during the second year. For the following 10 years, Qatar would be monitored annually for compliance.
A demand that is tantamount to Qatar accepting its vassal status to the Saudis and UAE. There is no country on record that has ever acceded to such a demand, unless defeated in war.

'An attack on free thought': Middle East Eye responds to Saudi demands

Saudi Arabia and its allies have demanded the closure of a range of media outlets as part of their campaign against Qatar


A Saudi coalition of states has placed 13 demands on Qatar to lift their blockade, including the closure of Al Jazeera and what it states are publications and websites "directly or indirectly supported by Qatar".
The list from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt also calls for Qatar to cut all ties with Iran, pay compensation to the petitioning states for "victims and losses" due to Qatari foreign policy and a 10-year "mechanism" to ensure Qatar sticks to the deal.
The media organisations the petition claims are "supported" by Qatar include Arabi21, al-Araby al-Jadeed, Sharq, and the London-based Middle East Eye. 
Qatar has 10 days to accept the demands, it said.
David Hearst, Middle East Eye's editor-in-chief, said his organisation was not funded by Qatar - or any other state or group - and was here to stay.
"Middle East Eye is independent of any government or movement and is not funded by Qatar," he said.
"Maybe the fate of Al Jazeera will depend on talks between the government of Qatar and its neighbours. But Middle East Eye is here to stay.
"MEE covers the area without fear or favour, and we have carried reports critical of the Qatari authorities, for instance how workers from the subcontinent are treated on building projects for the 2022 World Cup." 
On Thursday, the UAE's foreign minister Anwar Gargash accused Al Jazeera of being a "news broadcast for the Muslim Brotherhood".
"It is a mouthpiece for extremism. It has whitewashed personalities that have become symbols for terrorism."
Hearst said these claims, and the petition's demands for other media to close, were designed to strangle independent views.
"Obviously this is an attack on anyone in the Middle East who dares to offer an independent opinion," he said.
"Mr Gargash is frightened of something we in Britain call a free press. The only media he knows is one whose editorial line he can dictate and whose journalists he can buy. I have news for him. That world is disappearing."
This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

US Interrogates in Yemen Jails Rife with Torture

The United Arab Emirates and Yemeni forces run a secret network of prisons where prisoners are brutally tortured. The U.S. has questioned some detainees, and have regular access to their testimony -- a potential violation of international law. (June 21)

ما وراء الخبر- لماذا تخشى دول الحصار الجزيرة؟


Thursday, June 22, 2017

In Yemen’s secret prisons, UAE tortures and US interrogates


MUKALLA, Yemen (AP) — Hundreds of men swept up in the hunt for al-Qaida militants have disappeared into a secret network of prisons in southern Yemen where abuse is routine and torture extreme — including the “grill,” in which the victim is tied to a spit like a roast and spun in a circle of fire, an Associated Press investigation has found.
Senior American defense officials acknowledged Wednesday that U.S. forces have been involved in interrogations of detainees in Yemen but denied any participation in or knowledge of human rights abuses. Interrogating detainees who have been abused could violate international law, which prohibits complicity in torture.
The United Arab Emirates and Yemeni forces run a secret network of prisons where prisoners are brutally tortured. The U.S. has questioned some detainees, and have regular access to their testimony -- a potential violation of international law. (June 21)
The AP documented at least 18 clandestine lockups across southern Yemen run by the United Arab Emirates or by Yemeni forces created and trained by the Gulf nation, drawing on accounts from former detainees, families of prisoners, civil rights lawyers and Yemeni military officials. All are either hidden or off limits to Yemen’s government, which has been getting Emirati help in its civil war with rebels over the last two years.
The secret prisons are inside military bases, ports, an airport, private villas and even a nightclub. Some detainees have been flown to an Emirati base across the Red Sea in Eritrea, according to Yemen Interior Minister Hussein Arab and others.
Several U.S. defense officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the topic, told AP that American forces do participate in interrogations of detainees at locations in Yemen, provide questions for others to ask, and receive transcripts of interrogations from Emirati allies. They said U.S. senior military leaders were aware of allegations of torture at the prisons in Yemen, looked into them, but were satisfied that there had not been any abuse when U.S. forces were present.
“We always adhere to the highest standards of personal and professional conduct,” said chief Defense Department spokeswoman Dana White when presented with AP’s findings. “We would not turn a blind eye, because we are obligated to report any violations of human rights.”
In a statement to the AP, the UAE’s government denied the allegations.
“There are no secret detention centers and no torture of prisoners is done during interrogations.”
Inside war-torn Yemen, however, lawyers and families say nearly 2,000 men have disappeared into the clandestine prisons, a number so high that it has triggered near-weekly protests among families seeking information about missing sons, brothers and fathers.
Looking out over part of Aden Central Prison, known as Mansoura
None of the dozens of people interviewed by AP contended that American interrogators were involved in the actual abuses. Nevertheless, obtaining intelligence that may have been extracted by torture inflicted by another party would violate the International Convention Against Torture and could qualify as war crimes, said Ryan Goodman, a law professor at New York University who served as special counsel to the Defense Department until last year
At one main detention complex at Riyan airport in the southern city of Mukalla, former inmates described being crammed into shipping containers smeared with feces and blindfolded for weeks on end. They said they were beaten, trussed up on the “grill,” and sexually assaulted. According to a member of the Hadramawt Elite, a Yemeni security force set up by the UAE, American forces were at times only yards away. He requested anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.
“We could hear the screams,” said a former detainee held for six months at Riyan airport. “The entire place is gripped by fear. Almost everyone is sick, the rest are near death. Anyone who complains heads directly to the torture chamber.” He was flogged with wires, part of the frequent beatings inflicted by guards against all the detainees. He also said he was inside a metal shipping container when the guards lit a fire underneath to fill it with smoke.
Like other ex-detainees, he spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being arrested again. The AP interviewed him in person in Yemen after his release from detention.
The AP interviewed 10 former prisoners, as well as a dozen officials in the Yemeni government, military and security services and nearly 20 relatives of detainees. The chief of Riyan prison, who is well known among families and lawyers as Emirati, did not reply to requests for comment.
Laura Pitter, senior national security counsel at Human Rights Watch, said the abuses “show that the US hasn’t learned the lesson that cooperating with forces that are torturing detainees and ripping families apart is not an effective way to fight extremist groups.” Human Rights Watch issued a report Thursday documenting torture and forced disappearances at the UAE-run prisons and calling on the Emirates to protect detainees’ rights.
Amnesty International called for a U.N.-led investigation “into the UAE’s and other parties’ role in setting up this horrific network of torture” and into allegations the U.S. interrogated detainees or received information possibly obtained from torture. “It would be a stretch to believe the US did not know or could not have known that there was a real risk of torture,” said Amnesty’s director of research in the Middle East, Lynn Maalouf.
Defense Secretary James Mattis has praised the UAE as “Little Sparta” for its outsized role in fighting against al-Qaida.
U.S. forces send questions to the Emirati forces holding the detainees, which then send files and videos with answers, said Yemeni Brig. Gen. Farag Salem al-Bahsani, commander of the Mukalla-based 2nd Military District, which American officials confirmed to the AP. He also said the United States handed authorities a list of most wanted men, including many who were later arrested.
Al-Bahsani denied detainees were handed over to the Americans and said reports of torture are “exaggerated.”
18 secret prisons in Yemen controlled by the United Arab Emirates
The network of prisons echoes the secret detention facilities set up by the CIA to interrogate terrorism suspects in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. In 2009, then-President Barack Obama disbanded the so-called “black sites.” The UAE network in war-torn Yemen was set up during the Obama administration and continues operating to this day.
“The UAE was one of the countries involved in the CIA’s torture and rendition program,” said Goodman, the NYU law professor. “These reports are hauntingly familiar and potentially devastating in their legal and policy implications.”
The UAE is part of a Saudi-led, U.S.-backed coalition meant to help Yemen’s government fight Shiite rebels known as Houthis, who overran the north of the country. At the same time, the coalition is helping the U.S. target al-Qaida’s local branch, one of the most dangerous in the world, as well as Islamic State militants.
A small contingent of American forces routinely moves in and out of Yemen, the Pentagon says, operating largely along the southern coast. Under the Trump administration, the U.S. has escalated drone strikes in the country to more than 80 so far this year, up from around 21 in 2016, the U.S. military said. At least two commando raids were ordered against al-Qaida, including one in which a Navy SEAL was killed along with at least 25 civilians.
A U.S. role in questioning detainees in Yemen has not been previously acknowledged.
Inside a secret prison in Yemen
A Yemeni officer who said he was deployed for a time on a ship off the coast said he saw at least two detainees brought to the vessel for questioning. The detainees were taken below deck, where he was told American “polygraph experts” and “psychological experts” conducted interrogations. He did not have access to the lower decks. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared retaliation for discussing the operations.
Senior U.S. defense officials flatly denied the military conducts any interrogations of Yemenis on any ships.
“We have no comment on these specific claims,” said Jonathan Liu, a CIA spokesman, adding that any allegations of abuse are taken seriously.
This Yemeni man says his son was detained and has since disappeared.
The Yemeni officer did not specify if the ‘Americans on ships’ were U.S. military or intelligence personnel, private contractors, or some other group.
Two senior Yemen officials, one in Hadi’s Interior Ministry and another in the 1st Military District, based in Hadramawt province where Mukalla is located, also said Americans were conducting interrogations at sea, as did a former senior security official in Hadramawt. The three spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the U.S. role.
The AP learned the names of five suspects held at black sites who were said to have been interrogated by Americans. The Yemeni official on the ship identified one of the detainees brought there. Four others were identified by former detainees who said they were told directly by the men themselves that they were questioned by Americans.
One detainee, who was not questioned by U.S. personnel, said he was subject to constant beatings by his Yemeni handlers but was interrogated only once.
“I would die and go to hell rather than go back to this prison,” he said. “They wouldn’t treat animals this way. If it was bin Laden, they wouldn’t do this.”
Associated Press writers Lolita Baldor and Desmond Butler in Washington and Ahmed al-Haj and Maad al-Zikry in Yemen contributed to this report.

مسؤول إيراني يوجه كلمة خلال حفل في غزة لأول مرة


(أ ف ب) – القى مسؤول إيراني كلمة خلال حفل أقامه “المؤتمر الدولي لدعم الانتفاضة” الذي ترعاه إيران في غزة، حذر خلالها من “سعي بعض دول المنطقة لتطبيع العلاقات مع إسرائيل“.
وهذه هي المرة الأولى التي يوجه فيها مسؤول إيراني خطابا في حفل يقام في غزة، وفق تاكيد مسؤولين في الفصائل الفلسطينية.
ووجه حسين أمير عبد اللهيان، أمين عام المؤتمر، كلمته هذه عبر الدائرة التلفزيونية المغلقة، خلال الحفل الذي يأتي ضمن فعاليات إحياء “يوم القدس العالمي” في القطاع.
وقال عبد اللهيان “أكرر التحذير من الخطوة الخطيرة لبعض دول المنطقة في سعيها من أجل تاكيد تطبيع العلاقات مع الكيان الصهيوني”.
وأشار إلى أن “المساعي من أجل تطبيع العلاقات بين السعودية وبعض الدول مع الكيان الصهيوني تشكل خيانة للمثل الإسلامية العليا”. وأضاف قائلا “على اللاجئين الفلسطينيين أن يعودوا إلى أرض أجدادهم”.
وشدد اللهيان وهو مساعد رئيس مجلس الشوري للشؤون الدولية أن “شعوب الأمة المسلمة ستوجه صفعة لكل الدول العربية والإسلامية التي تمارس التطبيع مع الكيان” مؤكدا أن “دعم الشعب الفلسطيني والمجموعات المقاومة الفلسطينية اساسا وموقفا مبدئيا للجمهورية الاسلامية الإيرانية”.
وحضر الحفل الذي تخللته وجبة افطار رمضاني، قادة بارزون في حركتي حماس والجهاد الإسلامي والفصائل  الفلسطينية.
وقال اسماعيل رضوان القيادي في حماس “نشكر إيران التي دعمت المقاومة ومازالت تدعم، وندعو الأمة العربية  والإسلامية الى أن تحذو حذو ايران في دعم المقاومة”.

الحصاد- إسرائيل والعرب.. تسوية إقليمية أولا


الحصاد- اليمن.. تعذيب تديره الإمارات

نيويورك تايمز: هجوم مضلل على الجزيرة.. من يريد إسكات الحقيقة؟

الحصاد - جريمة الاختراق.. دول الحصار وراء القرصنة

Israeli minister calls for full Saudi ties and official Riyadh visit

Intelligence minister Yisrael Katz has also invited King Salman to send the new Crown Prince to Israel in order to establish mutual ties


Senior Israeli ministers have called on Saudi Arabia’s King Salman to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel.
Speaking at the Herzliya conference on Thursday, Israel’s intelligence and transportation minister Yisrael Katz asked King Salman to invite Prime Minister Netanyahu to Riyadh and to send newly appointed crown prince Mohammed bin Salman to Tel Aviv in return.
"I call upon Salman, the King of Saudi, to invite the prime minister of Israel Netanyahu to visit Saudi Arabia," Katz said, at the annual gathering of Israeli political leaders and strategists.
"We saw what a wonderful host you can be ... when President Trump was there. You can also send your heir, the new one, Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He's a dynamic person. He is an initiator. And he wants to break through.
"Exactly this way ... they know who Iran is. They know we have to create an access vis-a-vis Iran. You can send him for a meeting in Israel and I promise you, he's going to be a very welcome guest."
Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's defence minister, also called for "full diplomatic and economic relations" at the conference.
A peace deal must be reached with "moderate Arab Sunni countries" before a peace agreement could be made with the Palestinians, added Lieberman.
He said: "The only light at the end of the tunnel is a complete regional agreement," the hard-right defense minister added. "Full diplomatic and economic relations. Not under the table, but on the table.”
"I saw research on what the result of a regional agreement and full economic relations would mean between Israel, the Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia. This would mean an additional revenue of $45bn for Israel. That's the potential. We have to clearly say what our priorities are."
Prince Salman's appointment as crown prince and heir to the Saudi throne has brought renewed hope of a rapprochement between the two countries, according to communications minister Ayoub Kara.
“Salman’s appointment means more economic cooperation in the Middle East, and not just regarding oil,” Kara said in a statement. “The strengthening of relations with the Trump administration is the beginning of a new and optimistic time between Saudi Arabia and regional states, including Israel and the Jewish people.”
Saudi Arabia has refused to recognise Israel since its inception in 1948 and has supported Palestintian rights to sovereignty over territory occupied by Israel since 1967. However the Gulf Kingdom did not participate in any of the Arab-Israeli Wars.
Both countries see Iran as a strategic threat and are close allies of the United States, while recent years have seen growing ties between the bastion of Sunni Islam and the self-proclaimed "Jewish state".
Israel has also been supportive of a blockade of Qatar led by Saudi Arabia. Tel Aviv has repeatedly called on Qatar not to give asylum to key Palestintian figures, including Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal and Azmi Bishara.
During a tour of the Middle East last month, US President Donald Trump flew directly from Saudi Arabia to Israel in a flight dubbed a “historic moment” in relations between the two countries by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Talks aimed at establishing economic ties between the countries began last week, according to The Times. Arab and American sources said the links would start small and allow Israeli businesses to operate in the Gulf, and possibily allow El Al, the national airline to fly over Saudi airspace.