News, Perspectives 0 comments on Right-wing nationalists failed during the pandemic. But they weren’t the only ones. .. By Ishaan Tharoor

Right-wing nationalists failed during the pandemic. But they weren’t the only ones. .. By Ishaan Tharoor

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Were some political systems better positioned to beat the pandemic than others? “This covid epidemic may actually lance the boil of populism,” Francis Fukuyama, the acclaimed political philosopher, told the BBC last year. “I don’t think there’s any correlation between being a democracy and doing well or poorly [in dealing with the coronavirus]. But there’s definitely a correlation between being a populist leader and doing badly.”

Fukuyama made his diagnosis at a time when the United States under former president Donald Trump seemed the textbook example of pandemic management gone wrong. Case counts were soaring while the White House fumbled the federal response, feuded with state governors and cast doubt on the recommendations of public health experts and blame on foreign adversaries and domestic rivals alike. Chest-thumping nationalism of the Trumpist variety, the argument went, could offer little in the face of a pandemic that required sober technocratic judgment and international coordination.

A year later, Fukuyama’s diagnosis remains broadly accurate. The two current worst-hit major countries, Brazil and India, are governed by right-wing nationalists who have presided over hideous surges of the virus that overwhelmed hospital systems and filled cemeteries and crematoriums. Daily deaths are now in the thousands in both countries, with the real number in India likely far higher than the reported one.

Brazil passed 400,000 covid-related deaths last week, trailing only the United States; the majority of those deaths occurred in the first four months of this year. India recorded its highest official number of coronavirus infections Saturday. The following day, it announced 3,689 deaths in the previous 24 hours, marking a new national record.

Critics point their fingers at Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In vastly different circumstances, both leaders prioritized their domestic political battles over concrete action to curb the effects of the pandemic.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, Brazil’s federal government has downplayed the severity of a virus that has maimed this country of 210 million,” wrote my colleague Terrence McCoy. “Bolsonaro has called on people to live their lives normally. Enough have listened — either because of poverty, politics or boredom — to undermine uneven containment measures.”

Last week, a Senate commission launched to investigate Bolsonaro’s role in the country’s calamity. The probe may produce evidence for potential impeachment. “It is a true health, economic, and political tragedy, and the main responsibility lies with the president,” Humberto Costa, an opposition member of the commission, told the Intercept.

In India, Modi prematurely declared victory over the virus earlier this year before participating in a series of huge political rallies around the country ahead of a number of state elections. Results released Sunday saw Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP suffer defeat or underperform in a number of key contests, though most ballots had been cast before the severity of the current covid surge had become clear. (Full disclosure: As readers of Today’s WorldView may remember, my father is an opposition member in the Indian parliament.)

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“Rather than making urgent preparations for a second wave of cases in an already weak health-care system, the government put much of its focus on vaccinations — a campaign too limited to blunt the oncoming disaster,” wrote my colleagues Joanna Slater and Niha Masih. “The government repeatedly chose self-congratulation over caution, publicly stating that the pandemic was in its ‘end game’ in India as recently as last month.”

“Within a span of 15 months, our government has presented a textbook lesson in misgovernance,” wrote political scientist Suhas Palshikar in the Indian Express. First, there was a heavy-handed and somewhat ineffective lockdown that proved ruinous for the country’s economy. Then, Palshikar noted, the government struggled to provide adequate economic relief to a beleaguered country, failed to bolster critical health-care infrastructure and dawdled in its vaccine rollout. “The pandemic was not going to be an easy affair, it was bound to be an ordeal for any government and ‘mistakes’ were bound to happen,” he wrote, gesturing to the BJP’s initial bravado. “But precisely because of that, wisdom was in not claiming wisdom.”

“We don’t learn from our mistakes at all. The first wave ended and we didn’t think that a second wave could come,” Aparna Hegde, a Mumbai-based doctor warning of the cascading effects of the pandemic on the country’s hospitals, told the Financial Times. “India doesn’t have to be like this. That’s the thing that’s heartbreaking.”

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It’s not just about India and Brazil. Populist leaders, as Fukuyama put it, have fared badly elsewhere, while using the pretext of the pandemic to deepen their rule. That’s the case, arguably, in the Philippines, where critics accused nationalist strongman President Rodrigo Duterte of further shrinking the country’s democratic space with his government’s lockdown measures. Nevertheless, a current surge of the virus has lead to fears that Manila’s hospitals may soon be overwhelmed. Illiberal Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban briefly imposed emergency rule last year — yet his country still has one of the world’s highest covid death rates.

Of course, Europe is full of governments run by centrist parties or factions further to the left that have also floundered amid the pandemic, including center-left coalition governments from Spain to Belgium to Italy. Beyond the Antipodes, where both Australia’s right-wing government and New Zealand’s center-left one got a boost from their geographic remoteness, the only enduring case studies of governments faring “well” during the pandemic lie in Asia. Countries like Vietnam, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore are variously seen as models of success, though their political systems and leaders are all quite different. China, where the virus first emerged, clamped down on its spread with an authoritarian mobilization few other nations could match.

But blundering nationalist governance is no longer the dominant story line in the pandemic. The rollout of vaccines has started a totally different debate on the ethics of vaccine nationalism and the geopolitics of the jabs’ production and distribution. There, it’s more about the global haves vs. have-nots, with the Biden administration racing ahead in vaccinating the American population, while only belatedly moving to help expand vaccine access to other parts of the world.

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“The self proclaimed leaders of the liberal international order have proven to be the nationalists, at least with regards to vaccines, medicines and other critical supplies,” wrote Akhil Ramesh, a fellow at the Pacific Forum. “And the routinely derided nationalists of the East have proven to be compassionate globalists — with China and India leading the way in vaccine diplomacy.”

Interviews, News, Perspectives 0 comments on American politics are getting more European .. By Ishaan Tharoor

American politics are getting more European .. By Ishaan Tharoor

President Biden is trying to turn the page on four decades of American economic orthodoxy. “My fellow Americans, trickle-down economics has never worked,” he declared Wednesday, during a speech marking his first 100 days in office, in which he championed bills for trillions of dollars in government spending. “It’s time to grow the economy from the bottom and middle out.” A figure bound up in half a century of Washington establishment politics is now positioning himself to be the most consequential president since Ronald Reagan, and perhaps the most transformative one since Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Biden is presiding over a generational transition in economic thinking. It’s a shift that may also shake up the country’s political coordinates: Democrats are more aggressively seeking to build the kind of social democracy that exists in many European countries, where access to health care and education is more equitable and the safety net far deeper. Growing ranks of Republicans, meanwhile, are flirting with a brand of nativist populism already prevalent among the European far right and illiberal nationalists in power in countries such as Hungary and Poland.

“Exiting the stage after a long run in power is a group of accomplished centrist economists who came of age during an inflation spiral in the 1970s and governed from the 1990s to the 2010s, with a mixed record of success and failure,” wrote the Wall Street Journal’s Jon Hilsenrath. The “new economic guard on the left” that’s entering the fray, he added, “hasn’t seen inflation in 50 years and doesn’t worry much about it. With interest rates low, it doesn’t worry much about budget deficits either.”

Now they want to see action. “Reagan’s small-government philosophy resulted in a decades-long squeeze on the federal government, especially domestic spending, and on tax policies that mainly benefited the wealthiest Americans,” wrote my colleague Dan Balz. “If Biden ultimately gets his way legislatively, and that is a big question mark, those policies would be replaced with ones that would directly address long-standing economic, racial and gender inequities that have only become more apparent during the coronavirus pandemic.”

To a certain extent, Biden simply reflects the emerging political zeitgeist in the West. Multiple polls show significant majorities of Americans back his coronavirus relief package and proposed infrastructure and social welfare spending bills. A Pew survey published last week found that pluralities in France, Germany and the United States all believed their country’s economic systems need “major changes.” Pew noted that “when asked about various economic interventions the government could undertake” — from building more public housing to providing universal basic income to raising taxes on the wealthy — “publics generally voice high levels of support for each potential program.”

“The model of pre-coronavirus capitalism, with high levels of inequality, is losing popular support, suggesting the need for a post-Covid world with more support for the vulnerable and higher taxes, especially on extreme levels of income, wealth and profits,” wrote Chris Giles of the Financial Times.

There are, of course, likely limits to how much Biden will be able (or may actually want) to implement. His proposed legislation faces steep fights in Congress, where Republicans are only narrowly in the minority. But the more penny-pinching Republican counterproposals to Biden’s plans — $618 billion for coronavirus relief a couple of months ago and $568 billion for infrastructure more recently — already reflect a considerable change from a previous era of deficit hawkishness. (Trump, as Balz noted, disbursed some $4 trillion in tax cuts and coronavirus spending.)

“Compared with the line that Republicans took for most of the Obama presidency,” observed conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, “they represent a dramatic shift, with a combined price tag far beyond Obama’s $787 billion in stimulus spending, which Republicans back then denounced as profligacy or socialism.”

Culture, not economics, is the terrain where Republicans seem keener to fight. They are far more animated about the apparent “wokeness” of corporations that make statements in defense of voting rights than they are about Democratic aims to raise corporate taxes. In a process that began under President Donald Trump, growing numbers of Republicans are embracing a kind of politics more familiar to far-right parties like France’s National Rally or Italy’s League — a creed that’s not tethered to free market dogmatism, wholly opposed to immigration, and rooted in an appeal to “working class,” nativist interests.

Oren Cass, a public policy expert and one of the intellectuals of the “new right,” sees Trumpism as the first flush of an anti-liberal political creed that’s arguably taken clearer shape in Europe. “The backlash can be seen in the United Kingdom, where Brexit rejected an antidemocratic globalism; in Eastern Europe, where the success of Poland’s Law and Justice party and Hungary’s Fidesz has revitalized a Christian traditionalism; and in Spain, where the rise of Vox has given the world a rare right-wing party with a labor union,” Cass wrote in Foreign Affairs earlier this year. “The politics and circumstances of course vary by country, but tremors from the same tectonic shifts that set off the United States’ earthquake can be felt far and wide.”

Those tremors keep rippling through America as well. Tucker Carlson, probably the most influential right-wing pundit on U.S. cable news, now explicitly touts the “great replacement” theory that immigrants, and especially undocumented ones, are somehow “replacing” native-born Americans. It’s language that is also proliferating within the GOP — never mind that the 2020 Census charted the slowest population growth in the United States in almost a century and lagging immigration.

The rhetoric of “replacement” has for years existed on the fringes of Europe’s far right, seen more often in the manifestos of white supremacist gunmen than on prime-time American television. But as Biden and his allies push for social democratic transformation, this too has gone mainstream.

There are plenty of ways that the American scene is hardly aping Europe, not least in rolling conflicts over race and its role at the heart of American history. The Democrats, still dominated by establishment centrists, could scale back their ambitions. The Republicans could resume their opportunism over the deficit should the economic winds turn. But the showdown between the two very different political passions currently unleashed — one animated by left-wing economics, the other by right-wing nationalism — could be a defining struggle of a new era of politics in the United States and beyond.

News, Perspectives 0 comments on Nurse launches petition to opt out of mandatory Covid-19 vaccination at Texas hospital as it vows to FIRE those who refuse the jab

Nurse launches petition to opt out of mandatory Covid-19 vaccination at Texas hospital as it vows to FIRE those who refuse the jab

A hospital system in Houston, Texas has required all staff to be vaccinated against the coronavirus by summertime, prompting protests from employees, who’ve launched a petition against the mandate as the deadline draws near.

The Houston Methodist hospital system said its employees must take the shot by June 7, making it the first healthcare provider to issue a mandate, stiffening its rules after previously offering $500 to any worker who received the inoculation voluntarily. Those who decline may be fired.

“Mandating the vaccine was not a decision we made lightly, but science has proven that the Covid-19 vaccines are very safe and very effective,” said Houston Methodist CEO Marc Boom in a message to staff reported by CBS News on Friday.

By choosing to be vaccinated, you are leaders – showing our colleagues in health care what must be done to protect our patients, ourselves, our families and our communities.

Consisting of a medical center and six community hospitals, Houston Methodist may soon be joined by other Texas healthcare facilities, with Boom noting that the Memorial Hermann hospital and Baylor College of Medicine have concrete plans to follow suit, and that “countless” others around the US are now considering the move.

A majority of workers at Houston Methodist have already been vaccinated, or around 89% as of Friday. Of the hospital network’s 1,200 managers, who were given an earlier deadline of April 15, two decided to leave their positions – later criticized by Boom for “putting themselves before the safety of our patients.”

The rule-change has prompted some pushback, however, with Houston Methodist nurse Jennifer Bridges launching an online petition against it last week, garnering more than 3,100 signatures by Friday evening.

“If you want the vaccine that is great but it should be your choice. It should not be forced into your body if you are not comfortable with it!” the petition says.

Many employees are scared that they will lose their job or be forced to inject the vaccine into their body against their will to keep their jobs and feed their family. We just want the power to choose for ourselves…

Bridges later told the Houston Chronicle that she would only take the immunization once it received full FDA approval, potentially a years-long process.

“We’re not against the vaccine, we just want to be more comfortable with this one and have thorough research out before we take it,” she said. “When patients get care, they have the right to refuse treatment, but we’re not allowed that same exemption.”

To date, three coronavirus vaccines have been approved in the US, developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, all under the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) rules.

However, as Houston Methodist moves ahead with the requirement, some question remains as to the legality of vaccine mandates. While the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission determined last December that workplace vaccine requirements would not violate the American Disabilities Act, there is less clarity about whether they would conflict with other guidelines from health agencies, namely the FDA’s rules for drugs approved on an emergency basis.

Under the EUA provision passed by Congress in 2004, vaccine recipients must be given the “option to accept or refuse administration” of the drug or product in question, and be informed of the “consequences, if any, of refusing.” Though that would appear to rule out mandates altogether, no court has interpreted the measure, and there is ambiguity around the use of the term “consequences.” The language could be read to refer to ‘consequences’ directly related to an employee’s health, or, more broadly, to include any adverse actions that could be taken by an employer if a worker refused to take the shot, such as being fired.

The American Disabilities Act does make some exemptions for employees, such as those with disabilities or religious convictions that preclude taking a vaccine. It also does not permit employers to summarily fire workers who decline to be vaccinated, requiring them to seek “reasonable accommodation” first, though ultimately allows termination if none can be reached.

The CDC, meanwhile, has done little to clarify the issue, saying only that coronavirus vaccine requirements in the workplace are “a matter of state or other applicable law.” The agency did note, however, that employers cannot force workers to hand over sensitive medical information to prove they had been vaccinated.

While Houston Methodist is the first hospital in the US to require the shot for employees, ‘vaccine passports’ – or special cards or phone apps that allow recipients to prove they have been vaccinated to gain entry to public spaces – have been likened by critics to de facto mandates that threaten to exclude citizens from social life.

State governments in New York and Hawaii have already implemented their own passes, but similar projects have faced fierce opposition elsewhere. So far, at least six states have restricted or banned vaccine passes altogether by way of executive order or legislation, with Indiana likely to become the latest after state lawmakers passed such a measure on Thursday.

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News 0 comments on Putin offers Biden public talks after U.S. president says he thinks he is a killer

Putin offers Biden public talks after U.S. president says he thinks he is a killer

MOSCOW (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that he and U.S. President Joe Biden should hold live online talks in coming days after Biden said he thought the Russian leader was a killer and diplomatic ties sank to a new post-Cold War low.

Putin, speaking on television, cited a Russian children’s playground chant to scathingly respond to Biden’s accusation with the comment that “he who said it, did it.”

In an ABC News interview broadcast on Wednesday that prompted Russia to recall its Washington ambassador for consultations, Biden said “I do” when asked if he believed Putin was a killer.

Biden was quick to extend a nuclear arms pact with Russia after he took office. But his administration has said it will take a tougher line with Moscow than Washington did during Donald Trump’s term in office, and engage only when there is a tangible benefit for the United States.

Putin said he had last spoken to Biden by phone at the U.S. president’s request and that he now proposed they had another conversation, on Friday or Monday, to be held by video-link and broadcast live.

“I want to offer President Biden that we continue our discussion, but on the condition that we do it live, online, without any delays,” Putin said, when asked in a television interview about Biden’s comments. The two leaders last spoke by telephone on Jan. 26 days after Biden took office.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Thursday said Biden had no regrets about calling Putin a killer and swatted away a question about Putin’s request for an immediate call in public.

“I would say the president already had a conversation with President Putin, even as there are more world leaders that he has not yet engaged with,” Psaki said. “The president will of course be in Georgia tomorrow and quite busy.”

Putin said he was ready to discuss Russia’s relations with the United States and other issues such as regional conflicts “tomorrow or, say, on Monday,” adding that he would be having a weekend break in a remote part of Russia.

FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in a ceremony launching the Talas Gold Mining Plant at Kyrgyzstan’s Jerooy gold deposit via a video link in Moscow, Russia March 17, 2021. Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via REUTERS
‘WE ARE DIFFERENT’

In his ABC comments, Biden also described Putin as having no soul, and said he would pay a price for alleged Russian meddling in the November 2020 U.S. presidential election, something the Kremlin denies.

Russia is preparing to be hit by a new round of U.S. sanctions in the coming days over the U.S. allegations of election interference and hacking.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday that Washington was tracking efforts to complete Russia’s Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline and evaluating information on entities that appear to be involved.

In a highly unusual move following Biden’s interview, Moscow recalled its ambassador to the United States for consultations.

Suggesting Biden was hypocritical in his remarks, Putin said that every state had to contend with “bloody events” and added Biden was accusing the Russian leader of something he was guilty of himself.

“I remember in my childhood, when we argued in the courtyard with each other we used to say: he who said it, did it. And that’s not a coincidence, not just a children’s saying or joke. The psychological meaning here is very deep,” Putin said.

“We always see our own traits in other people and think they are like how we really are. And as a result we assess (a person’s) activities and give assessments,” he said.

Putin then spoke about U.S. history, talking about what he called the genocide of Native Americans, slavery and the ill treatment of Black people, and the U.S. dropping atomic bombs on Japan at the end of World War Two.

“They think that we are like them, but we are different, we have a different genetic and cultural-moral code,” said Putin.

“We will work with them in the areas in which we are interested on terms that we consider advantageous to ourselves. They will have to deal with that regardless of all their attempts to stop us developing, regardless of the sanctions, and regardless of the insults”.

Reporting by Andrew Osborn, Tom Balmforth, Anton Kolodyazhnyy, Dmitry Antonov, Andrey Ostroukh; Editing by Frances Kerry and Grant McCool

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

News 0 comments on Doomed to Failure: Ankara, Riyadh Show Signs for Alliance in Yemen

Doomed to Failure: Ankara, Riyadh Show Signs for Alliance in Yemen

The neo-Ottomanism in Turkish foreign policy which is based on the “strategic depth” doctrine of Erdogan’s old ally and current rival Ahmet Davutoglu has pitted Turkey against other regional and international powers over the past decade in a wide range of crises and cases, particularly in the Arab world.

Meanwhile, one of the most important regional cases in which Turkey has been preparing the ground for a more active role for itself over the past year is the Yemeni crisis. One of Turkey’s most important steps in this regard has been the acceptance of hosting the leaders of the Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood, such as Abdul Majid al-Zandani and Mohammad al-Yadumi. To be more precise, Istanbul in the recent years has become a favorite destination for most of Yemen’s Islah Party leaders.

In mid-June last year, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring organization in London, released a document stating that the Turkish intelligence service in the Syrian town of Afrin had set up an operations room to transfer Syrian mercenaries to take part in the Yemeni war. Turkey has previously been accused of transporting Syrian terrorists to the wars in Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh.

In other evidence of Turkey’s desire to play a greater role in the developments in Yemen, Yasin Aktay, an adviser to Erdogan and one of his closest associates, wrote an article for the ruling party Justice and Development Party’s newspaper Yeni Sefak in November last year wondering if Turkey will take action to “save Yemen from the decisive storm” in a reference to the codename of the Saudi-led operation against Yemen. The article was published by all websites supporting the Turkish government.

Although the above-mentioned evidence indicates that Turkey is trying to play a role in the developments in Yemen in competition with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, in a completely opposite trend in recent days, the media reported that Riyadh asked Ankara to participate in the Yemeni developments against Sana’a which is held by the revolutionary forces represented by Ansarullah Movement.

Now the question is what is the Saudi motivation to incorporate Turkey in Yemen developments? How will Ankara respond to the Saudi demand? Can the two, as bitter rivals in the regional developments, have a sustainable alliance in Yemen?

Erdogan’s economic and geopolitical goals

Despite supporting the anti-Yemeni Arab coalition in 2015, Turkey refrained from direct involvement in the military operations. As the Ankara-Riyadh differences grew over the past year, the Turkish leaders stepped up their criticism against the Arab coalition for causing a huge humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

However, things have been changing lately and now Turkey has economic and geopolitical reasons to change its mind.

First, such factors as the regional competition which led to Western sanctions and also boycott of the Turkish products in some Arab countries, along with the coronavirus outbreak, dealt hard blows to the Turkish economy. In municipality elections in 2019, the AKP lost Istanbul after long years, in a signal of the popular discontent with the economic conditions and policies of the ruling party. Erdogan and his party know that they are standing on a shaky foundation in the next elections. So, one reason for helping the Saudis in Yemen is to pave the way for end of the Turkish goods boycott in the Persian Gulf Arab states.

Second, by boosting the Yemeni branch of Muslim Brotherhood, Turkey intends to open a new front against the Saudi-Emirati coalition. Such a front would efficiently serve the aim to damage them due to its geographic closeness to the two Arab monarchies. At the same time, it will increase Ankara’s bargaining power in other regional cases in which it stands against the two Arab actors.

Maintaining the Brotherhood’s weight in the developments is important for Turkey. Of the two important Brotherhood bases in Yemen, Socotra and Ma’rib, Socotra is now in the hands of forces close to the UAE, and Ma’rib is on the verge of being liberated by Ansarullah. The Muslim Brotherhood is also seeking Turkey’s support for fear of losing control of southern Yemen regions like Shabwa province that is rich with oil and gas reserves.

Although the Islah party, like other groups allied to the resigned President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, sees Saudi Arabia the main backer in Yemen war, it seems that Islah Party sees it unavoidable to pick a new supporter as it sees the Saudi defeats and Ansarullah advances. Therefore, military intervention by Turkey is regarded as the key option to restore Islah’s place in the equations.

Turkish secret logistical support against anti-Sana’a

Turkey’s direct involvement in the Yemeni crisis has so far been in the form of logistical support to the Brotherhood and providing information on the military movements of rivals under the auspices of humanitarian and relief work like the activities led by the Turkish Red Crescent. Earlier, Saudi-affiliated media reported that Ankara, with the help of Qatar, was sending drones and military advisers to help Islah’s militias in the war against the southerners in Shabwa.

On the other hand, Turkey plans growth in its drone sales to Saudi Arabia. Reports say that after the US said it stopped its support to the Saudi aggression in Yemen, Turkey began providing the kingdom with Karayel surveillance and Bayraktar assault drones.

Also, it is also not unexpected that in the behind-the-scenes agreements between Saudi Arabia and Turkey, Ankara’s experience in the mass transfer of terrorists involved in the Syrian war to other parts, this time in the Yemeni war, will be ordered by President Recept Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.

Undoubtedly, given the strong international stance against the Saudis and the previous US government as the cause of the great humanitarian crisis in Yemen, Turkey’s political support for the Saudis will not be due to its many consequences. If Turkey decides to step in the Yemeni war against Sana’a, it will mainly focus on covert military cooperation with Saudi Arabia and the fugitive Mansour Hadi.

Shaky and unsustainable alliance

The Saudi-Turkish partnership in Yemen is a fruit of short-term motivations like the Turkish need to de-escalate with the Saudis and the Riyadh’s need to save Ma’rib province, rather than being driven by a strategic logic.

The cooperation with Turkey will have an increasingly negative impact on Saudi Arabia’s relations with the UAE in the Yemeni war. The UAE and Saudi Arabia, no doubt, see Turkey’s presence in Yemen as a threat to their geopolitical interests in the Peninsula after Syria and Libya conflicts experiences. Turkey’s strategic goal behind entry to Yemen war is not just to save Islah Party from defeat in the north but also stand as a backrest for the party instead of Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.

The Yemen war is different from all the proxy battles Turkey has ever engaged in over the past years in Syria, Libya, and freshly Karabakh. The Yemenis have successfully passed toughest six years under unceasing bombardment by the armed-to-the-teeth Saudi military which also enjoys arms and logistics backing of the Western powers and battleground assistance from African mercenaries.

Therefore, both in terms of bilateral strategic goals and also the possible partnership, an Ankara-Riyadh coalition is doomed to collapse. Meanwhile, the party incurring the biggest detriments would be Ankara, and that is because Erdogan— after losing his credit in the Muslim world for normalization of ties with Israelis just contrary to his claims of support to the Palestinian cause— would sacrifice the relatively good relations with the Iran-led Axis of Resistance to the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s passing efforts to escape the defeat in Yemen.

News 0 comments on Libye: La milice de Haftar refuse d’ouvrir la route de Syrte au passage des parlementaires

Libye: La milice de Haftar refuse d’ouvrir la route de Syrte au passage des parlementaires

-En préparation de la tenue d’une séance parlementaire, lundi, pour discuter de l’octroi de la confiance au gouvernement de Dbaiba.

AA/Tripoli

L’armée libyenne a accusé, dimanche, la milice du général putschiste Khalifa Haftar d’avoir refusé d’ouvrir la route côtière Misrata-Syrte (ouest), pour le passage des députés, en vue de la tenue d’une séance parlementaire consacrée au vote de confiance au gouvernement.

Une session de la Chambre des représentants se tiendra à Syrte, lundi, pour discuter de l’octroi de la confiance à la formation gouvernementale de 27 portefeuilles ministériels, dévoilé vendredi soir par le Premier ministre désigné, Abdelhamid Dbaiba.

Dans une déclaration à l’Agence Anadolu, le porte-parole de la salle des opérations de libération de Syrte et al-Jofra, affiliée à l’armée libyenne, le général de brigade Abdul Hadi Dara a affirmé que la milice de Haftar a refusé d’appliquer les termes de l’accord du Comité militaire conjoint (5 + 5) pour un cessez-le-feu et l’ouverture des routes.

“Aujourd’hui, nous avons préparé les conditions favorables au passage des députés, en essayant d’ouvrir le portail de séparation avec la milice de Haftar. Cependant, cette dernière a refusé catégoriquement de l’ouvrir prétendant qu’elle n’avait pas reçu l’ordre de le faire”, a déclaré le porte-parole militaire.

Plus tôt dans la journée dimanche, 40 députés de la Chambre des représentants de la capitale, Tripoli (ouest), sont arrivés à Syrte par avion, en préparation de la session, a affirmé le député Mohamed Al-Raeed à l’Agence Anadolu.

Il a indiqué que Aguila Saleh, président du Parlement de Tobrouk (est), accompagné d’autres députés, est arrivé à Syrte pour la tenue d’une séance parlementaire consacrée au vote de confiance au gouvernement.

Al-Raeed s’attend à ce que 120 députés sur un total d’environ 175, qui sont toujours en vie et n’ont pas présenté leur démission, soient présents à cette session.

«Demain (lundi), 20 députés de la Chambre des représentants de Tripoli se joindront à nous à Syrte», a-t-il ajouté.

Il convient de noter que la totalité du nombre des députés, selon le texte de la Déclaration constitutionnelle, s’élève à 200, mais 12 sièges représentatifs de la ville de Derna n’ont pas été élus, en 2014, époque où la ville était contrôlée par les groupes extrémistes. En outre, 10 députés ont péri, soit dans des accidents de circulation ou à cause de kidnappings ou d’assassinats, ou encore des suites de la Covid-19. De même, au moins un député a présenté sa démission.

Le 5 février, le Forum pour le dialogue politique a élu une autorité exécutive unifiée dont la tâche principale est de préparer la tenue d’élections parlementaires et présidentielle, le 24 décembre.

Les Libyens espèrent que cette étape mettra fin à des années de conflit armé, alors que la milice de Haftar qui dispute l’autorité et la légitimité au gouvernement libyen internationalement reconnu, dans ce pays riche en pétrole.

News, Perspectives 0 comments on Iran Denies Morocco’s Claim of Links with Polisario Front Separatists

Iran Denies Morocco’s Claim of Links with Polisario Front Separatists

Iran has vehemently rejected Morocco’s claims of alleged links between Tehran’s Embassy in Algeria and the Polisario Front, a Western Sahara separatist movement.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said on Wednesday that there is no cooperation between the Iranian diplomatic mission in Algiers and the Polisario Front.

On Tuesday, Morocco cut its diplomatic relations with Iran, with its Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita accusing Tehran and Lebanon’s resistance movement Hezbollah of training and arming Polisario members via the Iranian Embassy in Algeria.

He also claimed that severing ties with Iran came “in response to Iran’s involvement, through Hezbollah, in allying itself with the Polisario over the past two years in order to target the security and higher interests of Morocco.”

Qassemi described Bourita’s accusations as “completely baseless, far from reality and wrong.”

“We need to clearly emphasize once again that one of the most fundamental principles of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s foreign policy in its relations with other governments and countries in the world has been and will continue to be deep respect for their sovereignty and security as well as non-interference in the domestic affairs of other states.”

Hezbollah also quickly rejected Rabat’s accusations, blaming the decision on foreign “pressure” while the Saudi regime said it “stood by” Rabat’s decision to sever ties with Tehran.

Morocco maintains that Western Sahara, also known as Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), a former Spanish colony under its control, is an integral part of the kingdom, while the Polisario Front demands a referendum on self-determination.

 As many as 15 of the African Union, AU, 54 member nations, including continental bigwigs Algeria and South Africa, longtime supporters of SADR’s claim of independence.

The SADR has been a member of the AU since 1984 and Morocco withdrew from Pan-African body in protest, until rejoining in 2017.

Perspectives 0 comments on After decades of dictatorship and corruption, Tunisia cannot thrive as a democracy on its own

After decades of dictatorship and corruption, Tunisia cannot thrive as a democracy on its own

Ten years ago, Tunisia made history when Tunisian youth decided to take their fate into their hands and ignited the revolution of freedom and dignity. Tunisia began a pioneering but challenging transition from authoritarian regime to democracy. Since then, Tunisia has become a beacon of hope for those who believe in Arab democracy, holding successive peaceful elections, establishing democratic institutions and enacting progressive social change.

Yet, despite this progress, we are witnessing the rise of regressive movements that invoke nostalgia for the old regime and seek to return to an authoritarian past of one-man rule rather than the pluralism and compromise of a democratic system. The reasons for this are manifold. First, much of our world, including the United States, is grappling with the rise of populism. Populists have a tendency to thrive in moments of economic crisis and social turmoil, both of which are plentiful in the current climate. Their dangerous narratives are built around an opposition between a virtuous homogenous group of people against a vilified “other” – whether it be elites, minorities or any alternative viewpoint. In Tunisia it takes the form of attacking democratic institutions, elected officials and political parties, disrupting their work, and feeding the notion that complex and deep-rooted social and economic challenges can be addressed by returning to a more “efficient” strong man rule, or installing a “benevolent dictator”. Secondly, any revolution is followed by counter-revolutionary movements and discourses that seek to block and undo any progress achieved and preserve their own privileges and interests.

A democracy still in the making

Tunisian democracy is still in the making. The riots in some Tunisian cities in recent weeks have highlighted just how much there is that is still to be done. The Tunisian people are frustrated at the slow progress of economic reform since 2011 and have yet to see the jobs and better living standards they rightly expect. Our progress has not kept up with people’s expectations. The revolution inspired huge expectations among us all, with little awareness of how complex change would be. Looking back to other modern transitions not so long ago, like those in Eastern Europe, we can see that it takes several decades to see benefits from difficult reforms. This explains how nostalgia for the past order is a common feature of all transitions.  

Nevertheless, we can be proud of Tunisia’s remarkable achievements in the last 10 years. We have established new democratic institutions, resolved conflicts peacefully, set a culture of political inclusion, introduced protections for human rights, gender equality, rule of law and set new standards for state accountability and transparency. Tunisia has made unprecedented progress, placing it among the fastest democratic transitions in history. This is even more remarkable given that past transitions, such as Eastern Europe’s, took place in a more favourable regional and global climate for democracy and economic growth than Tunisia has faced.

Protesters on Jan. 26, 2021, in Tunis, Tunisia.

However, the feelings of disenchantment are understandable and Tunisians’ continued demands for dignity and prosperity promised are entirely legitimate. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, unemployment has increased from 15% to 18% in 2020. Over a third of small businesses are threatened with closure. The tourism sector, which represents 10% of Tunisian GDP and employs almost half a million people, is among the sectors most affected. The government has provided support to those affected by the repercussions of the pandemic and continues to strive to achieve a fine balance between protecting the lives of Tunisians and preserving their livelihoods.

After decades of dictatorship, inequality and corruption, Tunisia’s economy is in need of deep-rooted reforms. We believe a stable government that has the support of the largest possible number of political parties and social partners has the best chance to to enact delayed but necessary reforms. What is urgently needed is to embrace once again the values that won Tunisia a Nobel Peace Prize in 2015 — compromise and dialogue between political parties, trade unions, business leaders and civil society around a shared economic vision for the country. The coronavirus crisis creates even greater urgency for undertaking these reforms. In addition, agreement must be reached on reforming the electoral system to enable the emergence of majorities that can provide stable and accountable government for the people.

Tunisia needs help from its international partners

Tunisia cannot do this on its own. It needs support from its international partners who believe in democracy. The difficulties of our democratic transition must not engender a loss of faith in Tunisia’s democracy. We have crossed uncharted territory in our region, in the face of regional challenges and an unfavourable and volatile global environment. Tunisia needs to be supported as its success will send a message to all nations that democracy can prevail and is, as we believe, the best system of government for delivering freedom and dignity for all. The alternative to democracy in our region is not stability under dictatorship but rather chaos and intensified repression.

Continued support for and belief in Tunisia’s transition to a strong and stable democracy is not just in the interest of Tunisians but for all our neighbors and partners. Despite all challenges, our democratic system has stood firm and, with the necessary commitment and support, will deliver the fruits of democracy that Tunisians have been awaiting.

Rached Ghannouchi is the speaker of Tunisia’s parliament, the Assembly of People’s Representatives. 

Perspectives 0 comments on Biden’s uphill battle to save the Iran nuclear deal .. By Ishaan Tharoor

Biden’s uphill battle to save the Iran nuclear deal .. By Ishaan Tharoor

You’re reading an excerpt from the Today’s WorldView newsletter. Sign up to get the rest, including news from around the globe, interesting ideas and opinions to know, sent to your inbox every weekday.

There’s probably no country in the world outside the United States that was more affected by the November election than Iran. President Biden’s victory and entry into the White House was expected to mark a major shift in U.S. strategy toward the regime in Tehran. After weathering the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign and rounds of asphyxiating sanctions, Iranian officials hoped for a change in the geopolitical winds and some economic relief.

Biden and his allies say they want to undo the diplomatic harm caused by former president Donald Trump’s unilateral reimposition of sanctions on Iran, which happened over the objections of European partners. Along with rejoining the Paris climate accord, salvaging the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that Trump abrogated would demonstrate the Biden administration’s commitment to multilateral diplomacy with long-standing allies. The Biden camp also says Trump’s hard-line tactics failed to achieve their stated goal of curbing Iran’s malign activities abroad and drove it to amass a larger stockpile of enriched uranium than before Trump took office.

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But a return to the status quo that existed before Trump’s term looks tricky. Although Biden is committed to re-engagement with Iran, his aides have yet to indicate clearly when and how, suggesting that the ball is in Iran’s court. At his confirmation hearing last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States would wait until it was convinced that Tehran was scaling back its revived enrichment operations and returning once more to compliance with the pact.

“We are a long way from there,” Blinken said. “We would then have to evaluate whether they were actually making good if they say they are coming back into compliance with their obligations, and then we would take it from there.”

The Iranians want to see the Americans take the first major step. “The administration should begin by unconditionally removing, with full effect, all sanctions imposed, reimposed, or relabeled since Trump took office,” wrote Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in a Foreign Affairs op-ed last week. “In turn, Iran would reverse all the remedial measures it has taken in the wake of Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal.”

Zarif added that a “return to the table will be jeopardized” if Washington and its European partners insist on linking a portfolio of other concerns — including Iran’s ballistic missile program and ongoing support for proxy militias elsewhere in the Middle East — to the resumption of talks around the nuclear deal.

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As the Trump administration fired off a final salvo of punitive actions against Tehran, the regime responded by stepping up the purity of some of its enriched uranium to five times the level permitted under the nuclear deal. In November, the Iranian parliament passed a law that would restrict U.N. inspectors’ access to key nuclear facilities in the absence of sanctions relief. It may be implemented as early next month.

“It is clear that we don’t have many months ahead of us,” Rafael Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the nuclear watchdog of the United Nations, told Reuters earlier this month, warning that time was running out for diplomacy to get back on course. “We have weeks.”

This standoff between Biden and Zarif’s boss, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, is made more fraught by domestic pressures within both countries. Republicans and supporters of the Trump administration’s approach appear to be waiting to make political hay of any perceived concession to Iran and have already started accusing Biden appointees of being soft on the regime. They are joined by officials from Iran’s regional adversaries — Israel and the Gulf monarchies of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — who say that Biden should build off the perceived leverage achieved by Trump.

Some analysts of Iranian politics argue that this leverage is not what it’s cracked up to be and that the regime has proved remarkably resilient despite the squeeze of sanctions. With Iranian presidential elections slated for this summer, a camp of hard-liners opposed to rapprochement with the United States already looks ascendant.

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“The Iranian president has very difficult months ahead of him before he leaves office,” wrote Saeid Jafari for the Atlantic Council’s Iran Source blog. “Rouhani’s influential political rivals will do their best to deprive him of reviving the [nuclear deal] before the end of his government.”

But Iran watchers in Washington caution against worrying too much about internal political fissures within the Islamic Republic. “I would not hold the Iranian presidential election as a serious reason for urgency on our side,” said Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Institution during a webinar last week where she argued that Tehran’s strategy at present was aimed at goading Biden quickly back into the deal. “The Biden administration should resist the temptation to be drawn into crisis diplomacy with the Iranians.”

What Maloney and other experts in Washington advocate is a more measured approach that cools tensions without immediately lifting all of Trump’s sanctions. But a risky game of brinkmanship may now unfold, which will test cooperation between the new U.S. administration and its European partners.

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“Tehran would be wrong to assume that [the Biden] administration would hesitate to maintain or even intensify pressure on the Islamic Republic — this time in coordination with European allies — if it were to issue excessive demands,” noted a report from the International Crisis Group.

Even if the regime is intact, Iranian society is paying a price. “The cost of US sanctions have so far been felt most by ordinary Iranians, who have been hit with high inflation,” wrote Iran scholars Ellie Geranmayeh and Esfandyar Batmanghelidj in an opinion piece for CNN. “The worsening economic situation did not lead to regime collapse or capitulation as the Trump administration had bet on, but instead contributed … to protests that were met with brutal force by the security apparatus.”

My colleague Jason Rezaian argued that Biden ought to make the “concerns and aspirations of ordinary Iranians central to his policy.” But after the difficulties of the Trump years, many Iranians are pessimistic about the way ahead.

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“I do not think Biden’s presidency is going to make any important change in our lives,” said Shabnam, 41, a teacher in Tehran who spoke to my colleagues on the condition that only her first name be used for security reasons. “To be honest with you, the degree and depth of hopelessness and despair in Iran is so high that I am not optimistic about any action by any Iranian or American politician.”

Perspectives 0 comments on Foreign Forces Ignore Libya Exit Deadline Under Fragile Truce

Foreign Forces Ignore Libya Exit Deadline Under Fragile Truce

Foreign forces ignored a deadline to pull out of Libya as scheduled Saturday under a UN-backed ceasefire deal, highlighting the fragility of peace efforts after a decade of conflict.

Satellite images broadcast by CNN show a trench running tens of kilometres (miles) dug by “Russian mercenaries” near the frontline coastal city of Sirte, as Ankara and Moscow appear intent on defending their interests under any final settlement.

An unidentified US intelligence official, quoted by the American news network, said there was “no intent or movement by either Turkish or Russian forces to abide by the UN-brokered agreement”.

“This has the potential to derail an already fragile peace process and ceasefire. It will be a really difficult year ahead,” he said, AFP reported.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday urged all “regional and international actors to respect the provisions” of the October 23 ceasefire accord that set out a withdrawal within three months of all foreign troops and mercenaries.

That deadline passed on Saturday, with no movement announced or observed on the ground.

The UN estimates there are still some 20,000 foreign troops and mercenaries in Libya helping the warring factions, the UN-recognized Government of National Accord in Tripoli and Libyan National Army (LNA) commander Khalifa Haftar in the east.

Guterres called on all parties to implement the terms of the ceasefire “without delay,” something he noted “includes ensuring the departure of all foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya, and the full and unconditional respect of the Security Council arms embargo,” which has been in place since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that ousted and killed longtime ruler Moamer Kadhafi.

Any withdrawal or end to foreign interference “does not depend on the Libyans but on the outside powers”, said Khaled al-Montasser, professor of international relations at Tripoli University.

Turkey on Friday welcomed a deal reached at UN-backed talks for Libya’s warring factions to set up an interim executive to rule the North African country until polls in December.

Turkey has backed the GNA with military advisers, materiel and mercenaries, repelling an advance on Tripoli by Haftar’s forces, and it also has a military base in Al-Watiya on the border with Tunisia under a 2019 military accord.

Last December, parliament in Ankara extended by 18 months its authorization for Turkey’s troop deployment in Libya, in apparent disregard of the ceasefire deal.

“The mercenaries are unlikely to leave Libya so long as the countries which have engaged them have not guaranteed their interests in the new transitional phase,” said Montasser, referring to the multiple tracks of UN-sponsored talks currently underway.

“Their presence keeps alive the threat of military confrontation at any moment, while the current calm staying in place seems uncertain,” he said.

Most of the foreign forces are concentrated around Sirte, at Al-Jufra air base held by Haftar’s forces 500 kilometres (300 miles) south of Tripoli and further west in Al-Watiya.

“The context of the presence of mercenaries and foreign fighters is not the same in the east and the west,” said Jalal al-Fitouri, another university professor in the capital.

“The extension of the Turkish presence shows that Ankara doesn’t intend to leave,” he said, whereas the “terms of the contract” between Haftar and Russian mercenaries remain unknown.

Moscow denies any link to the mercenaries, but UN experts last May confirmed the presence of fighters of the Wagner group, allegedly close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.