June 17, 2018

Looming Disaster, Iran Drought Crisis

http://iran-hrm.com/amp/index.php/2018/06/17/looming-disaster-iran-drought-crisis/

By IranHRM on June 17, 2018

 Looming Disaster, Iran Drought Crisis

 Introduction

Experiencing its harshest drought in the last 50 years, Iran is facing serious problems in attaining its required water.

Nearly half of the country’s population will soon face water shortages and approximately 97 percent is experiencing drought to some degree, according to the Iran Meteorological Organization. Rights groups say drought has driven many people out of their homes.

Head of the Department of Environment, Eassa Kalantari, said, “If we fail to resolve the drought crisis, 50 million Iranians will have to leave the country in the next 25 years; an immigration that’s going to have dreadful consequences, in such a way that we may no longer have a country called Iran.” (The state-run Aftab website, September 18, 2016)

Although the climate change and warming of the region have been an important part of the water crisis in Iran but the regime’s mismanagement and corruption over the past few decades have been far too instrumental in causing today’s drought and the drying up of lakes and rivers all across the country.

With the average precipitation per decade dropping from 250 to 217 millimeters, solving the water problem should logically be the most important priority for the regime.

The bitter irony, however, is that the regime is directly responsible for the drought crisis. The Iranian regime and its organs including the Revolutionary Guard Corps are the main parties involved in building non-expert dams and digging deep water wells, which essentially cause such challenges.

One of the most visible examples of drought in Iran is in Isfahan, central Iran, home to a once mighty river, the Zayandeh Roud, or the River of Life, that used to cut through the historic center. Now completely dried up, Zayandeh Roud river has turned into a symbol of the water crisis brought about by mismanagement and overuse rather than drought. The riverbed now resembles a vast, gravelly beach, a dead stretch of sunbaked land that winds through the heart of Isfahan.

In the summer of 2018, Iran will walk on the edge of a severe drought. According to forecasts and statistics, the country will experience one of the hottest summers of recent decades. Droughts currently threaten the lives of more than 37 million Iranians; a threat that authorities have not taken seriously. These statistics and warnings have not only been announced by experts and environmental activists, rather, officials at the Ministry of Energy have also confessed to this issue.

 

Irreparable effects of drought on the lives of farmers and other people

 Generally, people’s perception of a drought is dry and cracked land without greenery. This is while drought can have severe consequences, including economic, agricultural, employment and cultural issues and can also lead to a social crisis.

Thanks to the regimes ecological policies, the phenomenon has overshadowed the lives of million Iranians.

Health of the residents of Khuzestan Province is jeopardized by the outbreak of hepatitis A and cholera due to severe drought.

The head of the Ahwaz Jundishapur University of Medical Sciences warned about the effects of water shortages and droughts on the spread of diseases, especially waterborne diseases.

“The monitoring of drinking water and food security are among the duties of the University of Medical Sciences, and in light of current conditions, we will probably face problems,” Dr. Iraj Nazari said.

“Currently, there are reports of hepatitis A in Ahwaz and several other cities in the province of Khuzestan. Also, cholera, with its peak in the first 9 months of the year, can be aggravated by water shortages,” he added referring to waterborne diseases. (The state-run ISNA state-run News Agency – April 4, 2018)

More than 80% of the children in South Khorasan’s villages suffer from skin problems due to water shortage. Mohammad Bagher Ebadi, MP from Birjand, cited that more than 80% of the kids in the villages of South Khorasan Province (east of Iran) suffer from skin problems, and added: “I have seen them from close, time and again during the last three months. Unfortunately, due to water shortage the people there don’t have enough hygiene and cannot have a bath correctly. … About 480 villages at South Khorasan province suffer from water shortage and they receive water by tankers. Many of the watercourses there have dried up.” (The state-run ILNA News Agency- May 24, 2018)

Meanwhile erosion of Iran’s wetlands had led to more sand storms in drier regions causing health problems.

The Head of the Public Relations Office of Zabol University of Medical Sciences said that 78 residents of the Sistan and Baluchestan region went to hospitals and medical centers as a result of sand storms in the province…
“Unfortunately, due to the drying up of our wetlands and sandstorms, the people in the region go to hospitals and medical centers for various health issues, mainly respiratory problems and eye diseases,” Hamid Reza Bazi added. (The state-run Mehr News Agency – April 1, 2018)

Exacerbated by mismanagement, drought has also impacted the lives of millions of people in parched areas, analysts say. It has disrupted people’s income particularly the farmers who accuse local politicians of allowing water to be diverted from their areas in return for bribes. Farmers say that over the years, the government has deprived them of their share of the water sources of the region.

According to the Deputy Director of the Isfahan Regional Water and Waste Management Department, drought conditions and the sharp decline of water resources in Isfahan Province have been unprecedented in the last 50 years, and the amount of water stored in the Zayandeh Roud River dam is 144 million cubic meters, which is only about 10 percent of the volume of the tank. (The state-run IRNA news agency, April 4, 2018)

The situation for the farmers is the same in other cities. The Governor of Nimruz, a city in Sistan and Baluchestan Province said that 12,000 hectares of this city’s autumn crops were completely destroyed due to drought and water shortages. (The state-run ISNA News Agency- April 7, 2018)

Amir Jafari-Qoli, member of the Committee for the Protection of Waters in the province of Chahar Mahaal and Bakhtiari warned, “With the construction of the Behesht-Abad tunnel, four cities (Ardel, Kiar, Boroudjen, Sharh-e-Kurd) will be transformed into desert.”

According to the environmental experts of the Kohgiluyeh and Boyerahmad, so far, 40,000 hectares of land in the south of the province have been exposed to desertification due to unauthorized drilling of 1,000 wells.

 

Cities and villages without water

343 water sources for villages in Sistan & Baluchistan have completely dried up,” said The Director of Villages’ Water and Sewage in Sistan and Baluchistan Province. Abdol-Ahad Rigi added: “1,232 villages have water problems. Delivering water with tankers requires special credits.”

Regi also said that 3,024 villages lack any kind of water delivery: “Potable water for these villages is provided by tankers… Yet again 348 water delivery systems for the villages of Sistan & Baluchistan have become inactive,” he mentioned.  (The state-run ISNA News Agency- May 5, 2018)

Reza Arbabi, the Director General of the Crisis Management Department of the province, said that about 100% of the area of ​​the province suffered from moderate to very severe drought.

“Currently, the province’s dams are only 40% full, and the remaining 60 percent is empty. To compensate for the losses, 70 billion tomans (about 19,000 dollars) were approved last year, but nothing has been allocated so far. This year we also had 30 billion tomans (about 8,000 dollars) in damage in Iranshahr and the surrounding cities, but so far no payment has been made,” he added. (The state-run Tasnim News Agency – February 17, 2018)

A member of the Iranian regime’s parliament from the city of Iranshahr in southeastern Iran has recently said, “3,000 villages of Sistan & Baluchistan Province lack any drinking water network”.

“1,200 villages in this province have water delivered with trucks,” said Mohammad Naeim Amini-Fard in an interview with the state ISNA news agency.

In northern Iran, due to lack of adequate resources, trucks deliver drinking water to 110 villages of Golestan Province, according to the official IRNA news agency quoting the director of Village Water & Sewage Systems Department. The population of these 110 villages sits at 44,849 people.
Bushkan, Kalameh, and Ahrom-e Tangeh are some of the towns in Bushehr that face the severest droughts and have been struggling with it for years. The wells that used to have water at 20 meters in the past 10 years, no longer yield water at 120 meters.
Due to loss of vegetation, livestock feed on dates. Farmers suffer from severe economic problems due to the loss of agricultural land and are struggling with livelihood issues. Lack of agricultural production has led to the migration of indigenous peoples to other parts of the country, to the extent that in villages in the Ahrom region, what used to be a village of more than 1,000 families, has now decreased to less than 100 families in the past 10 years. The migration rate has also caused various problems for immigrants and their hosts in different areas. (The state-run Mehr News Agency – April 12, 2018)

 

Parched wetlands, dried up lakes and rivers

 Systematic mismanagement has led to drying up of 90% of Iran’s wetlands.

A member of the Majlis Environment Fraction said that the country’s water situation was critical. “Many rivers including Urmia Lake, and Zayandeh Roud have dried up and are on the verge of extinction,” Jonathan Bet Kolia said.

He cited the condition of Urmia Lake adding that “if the lake completely dries up and becomes extinct, around 14 provinces would be destroyed.”

“Due to the salt in that region, if there is a storm or severe rain, the whole region will be destroyed,” he added. “Of course some methods have been put forth to revive Urmia Lake including creating channels and bringing water from the Caspian Sea and other oceans, or channeling other rivers to the lake, but in practice no steps have been taken to put these solutions into effect and even if steps have been taken, they have not been tangible,” he added.  “Only 10% of the wetlands have not dried up as yet, but if plans are not made to preserve them, these remaining wetlands will surely vanish,” the member of the Majlis Environment Faction said. (The official website of the Majlis, March 20, 2018)

Masoud Bagherzadeh Karimi, Director of the Environment Organization’s Wetland Ecosystems, said 90% of the Salahieh and Allahabad wetlands in southern Tehran had dried up. “The drying of these wetlands has become a source of dust for Tehran. This could be a major threat for Tehran and aggravate Tehran’s pollution problem,” he said. (The state-run ILNA News Agency – Feb. 3, 2018)

The lakes in the southern Fars Province have turned into salt fields which in turn can pose an environmental threat for the whole province.

Environmental expert Ali Akbar Kazemeini called the status of lakes in Fars Province “critical”, adding that the lakes have completely dried up.

The International Parishan Lake has also dried up leaving a small pond only for marine life.

Maharlu Lake contains only a small patch of sewage water coming from the city of Shiraz. Bakhtegan Lake, the second largest lake in Iran, is also in critical condition due to consecutive years of drought. No efforts have been made to revive the lake.  (The state-run Mehr News Agency, April 17, 2018)

Zahra Jensi, deputy secretary of the environmental network of Gilan Province, pointed to the extremely terrible condition of Anzali wetland and said, “Unfortunately, it has been many years that the deepest sections of Anzali wetland measured only one meter, while this year these have reached less than half a meter. (The state-run Asr Iran Website- June 6, 2018)

Internationally recognized as one of the largest homes to migrating birds and fish in Iran, the Anzali Wetland is now sharing the fate of 60 other wetlands across the country that are on the verge of complete extinction due to wrong policies adopted by the ruling mullahs’ regime.

The Director General of the Social and Cultural Affairs of Golestan Governorate expressed concern over the state of international wetlands in Golestan Province. “In the last few weeks of the last (Persian) year, we visited the two wetlands of Alagol and Almagol and our field observations indicated that the wetlands in this province were drying up,” he said. Environment researcher and expert Ramezan Ali Ghaemi said that two thirds of the Gomeishan wetland had dried up and described it as being in a critical state. “The main reason for this is the nonstandard canalization of the Gomeishan wetland which was approved by the Environmental Organization in previous years,” he said.

“In less than a decade, many licenses have been issued for the development of aquaculture in the region, and two large canals (input and output) have been built. Even the remaining water of the output canals are streaming into the wetlands and with the decrease of the water in the Caspian Sea, the canals act like drains and quickly erode the lagoons,” the university professor added. (The state-run Mehr News Agency – Apr. 3, 2018)

Pishin Dam in Sarbaz Township, south of Sistan & Baluchistan Province dried up due to draught and decrease in the amount of rain.

The dam was built with the capacity of 175 million cubic meters to accumulate the seasonal rain, preventing floods and reviving agricultural lands of Bahokalat Dashtyari.

The Deputy for Planning and Construction Affairs of Sarbaz stated, “Right now the amount of water is less than 25 million m3, 18 million m3 of which are unusable.”

“Sarbaz Township is facing many problems, having no water and draught. So far, there has been irreversible damage to different sections,” he said. (The state-run IRNA News Agency- May 9, 2018)

The Managing Director of the Lorestan Regional Water Company said that the Madian Roud River was dying. The Madian River is used for irrigating the famous fig groves in the Zivdar region in Pol-e Dokhtar. “Although in the past 10 years, no permit has been issued by the regional water company for using the water of Madian River, unfortunately, since 2011 until now, the area of the fig groves has grown about twice as large without authorization and this has made the irrigation of the older groves extremely difficult,” Dr. Reza Mirzaie said. “The state of the river is very disturbing and it is predicted that in June this year its irrigational properties would reach zero percent and that it would completely dry up,” he added.  (The state-run ISNA News Agency- Apr. 1, 2018)

A crisis in the making

Iran drought crisis could be hindered by proper water management. However, as the country is moving quickly towards a drought crisis, not only the regime has failed to take any effective measure to stop or even slow down the trend, it has further deteriorated the conditions by plundering the country’s water resources in return for large profits.

The security strategies of the US, China, Russia and the EU: Living in different worlds


Source www.fiia.fi
Finnish Institute of International Affairs

SUMMARY

This report analyzes and compares the security strategies of four major international actors: the United States, China, Russia and the European Union. The rules-based liberal international order is increasingly under strain due to tightening geopolitical competition and the decline of the Western hegemony. In this context, the report explores the conceptions of the four major powers with regard to the world order, the self-defined position of each actor in it, and their possible aspirations to change the existing order. Furthermore, the report analyzes how each strategy defines security threats and risks, as well as ways to address these threats.

The report highlights the ongoing rapid change of global structures and instruments of power as a challenge addressed in all four strategies. Increased competition is visible not only in the field of military power, but also in economic relations and at the level of values. While the US strategy defines Russia and China as key adversaries whose increasing influence is to be contained, both Russia and China correspondingly aim at building a counterweight to the US power in a multipolar world. Among the four actors, only the EU maintains a strong commitment to the rules-based order and explicitly rejects a worldview centred around zero-sum rivalry between great powers

DOWNLOAD PDF

June 16, 2018

World Security Update: JustSecurity

Be sure to visit www.justsecurity.org

   

INSPECTOR GENERAL REPORT ON THE F.B.I.

The Department of Justice (D.O.J.) Inspector General Michael Horowitz yesterday published a 500-page report looking at F.B.I. investigations during the 2016 presidential election, including the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and the anti-Trump texts exchanged by two F.B.I. officials, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who were involved in the Clinton case and the investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Matt Apuzzo reports at the New York Times.

The report strongly criticized former F.B.I. Director James Comey for his actions during the Clinton investigation, accused him of insubordination and said it was a “serious error of judgment” when Comey decided to send a letter to Congress in late October 2016 announcing the reopening of the Clinton case. Devlin Barrett, Karoun Demirjian, John Wagner and Matt Zapotosky report at the Washington Post.

Strzok told Page in a text that “we’ll stop” Trump from becoming president and the report described the message as “indicative of a biased state of mind” and implied “a willingness to take official action to impact the presidential candidate’s electoral prospects.” The BBC reports.

The report “reaffirms the president’s suspicions about Comey’s conduct and the bias among some of the members at the F.B.I.,” the White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said yesterday in response to Horowitz’s findings. Jordan Fabian reports at the Hill.

F.B.I. Director Christopher Wray yesterday said he accepted the findings of the Inspector General’s report, expressed disappointment at some of the problems highlighted in the report, but said that the F.B.I. would “learn from this report” and that nothing in the document impugned “the integrity of our workforce as a whole.” Sadie Gurman and Del Quentin Wilber report at the Wall Street Journal.

“I do not agree with all of the inspector general’s conclusions, but I respect the work of his office and salute its professionalism,” Comey writes at the New York Times, highlighting that the report is important for two reasons: that there was “no evidence that bias or improper motivation” affected the Clinton investigation and that the report “is vital in shedding light for future leaders on the nature and quality of our investigation and the decisions we made.”

“Tomorrow, Mueller should be suspended and honest people should be brought in, impartial people to investigate these people like Strzok,” Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani said yesterday evening, adding that suspending the probe would give Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein a “chance to redeem themselves.” Brent D. Griffiths and Darren Samuelsohn report at POLITICO.

Details from the report have bolstered Trump’s claims of political bias within the F.B.I. and the report’s references to Comey, who was fired by Trump last year, and its criticisms of Strzok and Page has given Trump’s allies ammunition in their efforts to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference during the 2016 election. Robert Costa reports at the Washington Post.

“At this point, the Mueller investigation must be reassessed in light of today’s information,” Trump ally and chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said yesterday, joining other Republicans in casting doubt on the Mueller probe. Kyle Cheney and Elana Schor report at POLITICO.

It would be “stupid” for President Trump to sit down for an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, Donald Trump Jr. advised yesterday, saying he doesn’t “trust” the federal prosecutors carrying out Mueller’s probe. Quint Forgey reports at POLITICO.

Republicans and Democrats will find conclusions in the report that suit their agenda, with Republicans saying it demonstrates anti-Trump bias in the F.B.I., and Democrats pointing to Comey’s actions being damaging to Clinton and welcoming the finding it was right not to prosecute the former presidential candidate. Jonathan Allen explains at NBC News.

A breakdown of the report’s revelations is provided by the New York Times.

The key takeaways from the report are provided by Jeremy Herb and Marshall Cohen at CNN.

   

The KOREAN PENINSULA

The Trump administration yesterday defended its strategy on the Korean Peninsula, insisting that it is not leaving regional allies vulnerable and that vague language in the document signed by President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the recent Singapore summit represents a solid commitment from the North to get rid of its nuclear weapons. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said sanctions on North Korea will not be lifted until “after the full denuclearization, the complete denuclearization,” Anne Gearan and John Hudson report at the Washington Post.

Pompeo has claimed that China is committed to maintaining U.N. sanctions on North Korea, having met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other senior officials in Beijing – following talks with top South Korean and Japanese officials in Seoul where Pompeo provided a briefing on Tuesday’s summit between Trump and Kim. Jeremy Page and Michael R. Gordon report at the Wall Street Journal.

Seoul appears to be going along President Trump’s decision to shelve major joint military exercises in South Korea, with a senior South Korean presidential official announcing today that Washington and Seoul have begun talks on temporarily suspending the significant “Ulchi Freedom Guardian” exercises that normally take place in August in addition to other joint drills while nuclear diplomacy with North Korea progresses. Kim Tong-Hyung reports at the Washington Post

Seoul has indicated that the presence of U.S. troops in the South is not subject to negotiations with the North, even should military exercises be halted, with one high-level Blue House official commenting “let me be clear. There has been no discussions and no change in position on the matter of the issue of US troops in South Korea.” Song Jung-a reports at the Financial Times.

Adm. Harry Harris – Trump’s choice to be the next ambassador to South Korea  – has told senators that he believes the U.S. must continue to worry about the nuclear threat from North Korea, despite Trump’s assertion on his return from Singapore that there is “no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.” Harris did, however, endorse Trump’s plan to halt major military exercises with South Korea, claiming that the U.S. is in a “dramatically different place” compared with last year, the AP reports.

“I believe we should give major exercises a pause to see if Kim Jong-un is serious on his part in the negotiations,” Harris said, though he added that “I believe, without knowing with any certainty, that the president was referring to major exercises. The vice president has stated since then regular readiness training exercises will continue.” Stephanie Murray reports at POLITICO.

Sen. John McCain John McCain (R-Ariz.) criticized the administration’s decision to halt the military exercises, remarking in a statement yesterday that “suspending U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises is a mistake. Making unnecessary and unreciprocated concessions is not in our interests—and it is a bad negotiating tactic.” Jordain Carney reports at the Hill.

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) is seeking answers from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Trump’s decision to cancel the military exercises, writing in a letter yesterday that “as you know, exercises build readiness, expand interoperability and promote cooperation with the allies and partners...in the Korean context, they are integral to coordination between the Republic of Korea, U.S. Forces Korea, U.S. Forces Japan and other allies and partners in the region that would be necessary to the national defense should war break out.” Rebecca Kheel reports at the Hill.

A 42-minute documentary aired yesterday, offering a different view of the summit between Trump and Kim, with the footage – broadcast by the North Korean agency – appearing to capture several scenes missed by international news organizations, including one notable moment when Trump returned a salute given by a North Korean military leader. Adam Taylor reports at the Washington Post.

“It’s a common courtesy when a military official from another government salutes that you return that,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, during a briefing with reporters yesterday, after the incident drew questions about whether a high-ranking officer of a dictatorship deserved to be on the receiving end of a gesture typically symbolizing to symbolize respect and camaraderie. Katie Rogers reports at the New York Times.

“We’re here now...why can’t we just do it?” Trump allegedly demanded on Sunday,attempting to persuade his aides to request that the meeting with Kim be pushed up by a day — to Monday. Trump had to be talked out of altering the long-planned and carefully negotiated summit date by Pompeo and Sanders. Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey, Carol D Leonnig and Karen DeYoung report at the Washington Post.

Russian President Vladimir Putin asked North Korean official Kim Yong-nam at their meeting yesterday to pass an invitation to Kim Jong-un to visit Russia in September.Putin also said he welcomed the summit between Kim and Trump, Denis Pinchuk reports at Reuters.

The family of Otto Warmbier are continuing their lawsuit against North Korea — which alleges the Warmbier’s son was “brutally tortured and murdered” by the “criminal” regime. Susan Svrluga reports at the Washington Post.

A classified report from Israel’s foreign ministry raises doubts over Trump’s optimistic statements about the summit with Kim, and suggests the U.S. retreated from its position on several issues relating to the North’s nuclear program. The report was circulated yesterday by the research department of the Israeli foreign ministry to all Israeli embassies around the world, Barak Ravid reports at Axios.

The real headline of the Trump-Kim summit should have been: “U.S. weakens its 70-year alliance with South Korea,” Fareed Zakaria comments at the Washington Post.

Trump’s “McDonald’s theory” – his plan to transform North Korea into a modern economy – can only come about if Pyongyang improves on human rights, Josh Rogin argues at the Washington Post.

We have ample reason to doubt Trump’s competence and his motivations, E.J. Dionne Jr. comments at the Washington Post, arguing that there can be no defending the president’s performance in Singapore.

The Singapore summit was merely the first episode in what is set to be a disorientating period of diplomacy, Derek Chollet comments at Foreign Policy, highlighting five issues to watch moving forward.

   

YEMEN

Saudi-led coalition forces fought their way to the outskirts of the airport in Yemen’s port city of Hodeidah today, in a fierce battle coinciding with the holy Muslim Eid-al-Fitr holiday. Residents of the city, controlled by Iran-backed Yemeni Houthi rebels, said clashes were taking place in the Manzar neighbourhood, with many residents of the neighbourhood fleeing to the city center, Tom Miles reports at Reuters.

Residents say rebel snipers are stationed on rooftops of buildings in Hodeidah to counter pro-government advances toward the rebel-held city today, with rolling coverage at the AP.

Yemen’s government has said that its forces are not attacking the port of Hodeidah itself, with Foreign Minister Khaled Alyemany claiming that “we are not planning to destroy the infrastructure.” The BBC reports.

Rebel leader Abdel Malek al-Houthi has urged his forces to “confront the forces of tyranny,” after 39 people were killed (including 30 Houthis) in heavy fighting yesterday as coalition gunships pounded rebel positions. Al-Houthi added that “the western coast will turn into a big swamp for the invaders,” AFPreports.

U.A.E. ambassador to the U.N. Obaid Salem al-Zaabi maintained that the Saudi-led coalition had no choice but to act, asking “should we leave the Houthis smuggling missiles? This comes from this seaport. We already gave the United Nations the chance to operate from this seaport, and (the Houthis) refused.” Al-Zaabi’s comments contradict the conclusions of a U.N. panel of experts that previously reported that it was unlikely the Houthis were using the port for smuggling arms, Ahmed Al-Haj reports at the Washington Post.

The U.N. has confirmed that debris from five ballistic missiles launched from Yemen into Saudi Arabia since July 2017 contained components manufactured in Iran and shared key design features with an Iranian missile, although U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres’s report – submitted to the Security Council yesterday – also said that the U.N. has been unable to determine whether the technology and  missile parts were transferred from Iran after January 16, 2016 when U.N. restrictions came into force. Edith M. Lederer reports at the Washington Post.

The U.N. and its humanitarian partners claim that they are rushing to provide life-saving assistance to thousands of families under threat in Hodeidah, with U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen Lisa Grande saying in a statement that “dozens of U.N. staff are in the city helping to deliver food, water and health services...we estimate that 600,000 civilians are in the city – many of whom are dependent on assistance to survive.” U.N. News Centre reports.

The U.N. Security Council (U.N.S.C.) has called on all sides involved in the fighting over the to keep Hodeidah’s port open to allow the delivery of aid and other essentials, with members of the U.N.S.C. expressing their “deep concern about the risks to the humanitarian situation” in a closed-door meeting, according to Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia who holds the council presidency. Al Jazeera reports.

The Pentagon has said that it is not involved in the military offensive carried out by the coalition, with spokesman Major Adrian Galloway claiming that Washington “does not command, accompany, or participate in counter-Houthi operations or any hostilities other than those authorised against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and I.S.I.S [Islamic State group].” Galloway added that “our support to the coalition consists of aerial refueling to coalition aircraft and intelligence support to assist our partners in securing their borders from cross-border attacks from the Houthis,” Al Jazeera reports.

The U.S. refused to provide military assistance to help take the port, according to an Emirati official. The coalition had asked for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support, as well warships to be sent to clear mines that it believes have been laid by Houthi rebels, Katrina Manson, Nasser al-Sakkaf and Andrew England report at the Financial Times.

France has agreed to provide minesweeping support for the operation, added the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. Phil Stewart reports at Reuters.

“If they keep Hodeidah and its revenues and its strategic location, the war will last a long time and the suffering of the Yemeni people will continue,” U.A.E. Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said yesterday, adding that “the deadlock must end.” Margherita Stancati, Asa Fitch and Dion Nissenbaum report at the Wall Street Journal.

In southern Yemen, what was a trickle of civilians fleeing war in December has grown to more than 140,000 today, worsening a humanitarian crisis already considered the most severe in the world and increasing pressure on both aid organizations and hospitals. Sudarsan Raghavan reports at the Washington Post.

   

SYRIA

Syrian government violations of agreements in the designated de-escalation zone in southwestern Deraa region will be met with “firm and appropriate measures,” the U.S. State Department said yesterday, referring to the opposition-held area bordering Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and President Bashar al-Assad’s attempts to regain control of the area. Brendan O’Brien reports at Reuters.

Pro-Syrian government forces have bombarded rebels in Deraa region today, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, who say at least six people have been killed. Reutersreports.

“We are seeing movement and we will keep seeking more of it,” the U.N. special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said yesterday, welcoming the involvement of U.S. officials at upcoming Geneva talks on forming a Syrian constitutional committee and efforts to find a political solution to the seven-year conflict. Reuters reports.

The State Department yesterday announced it would release $6.6m of funding for the Syrian Civil Defense team, known as the “White Helmets,” who carry out humanitarian work in the country. Max Greenwood reports at the Hill.

U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 134 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq between June 1 and June 10. [Central Command]

   

AFGHANISTAN

A U.S.-Afghan airstrike in Afghanistan has killed the Pakistani Taliban leader Mullah Fazlullah, a senior Afghan Defense Ministry official said today. Rupam Jain and Jibran Ahmad report at Reuters.

A three-day ceasefire between Afghan security forces and the Taliban has begun today, marking the first Taliban-declared nationwide ceasefire since the conflict in Afghanistan began in 2001. The AFP reports.

“I sincerely hope this sense of solidarity marked by this joyful occasion will continue well into the future,” the U.N.’s Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, Tadamichi Yamamoto, said yesterday, welcoming the ceasefire which marks celebrations for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and expressing hope that the ceasefire will lead to the peace “that all Afghans want and deserve.” The U.N. News Centre reports.

   

LIBYA

Forces loyal to the self-styled Libyan National Army (L.N.A.) commander Gen. Khalifa Haftar say they are close to regaining full control of the city of Derna, which would mean Haftar gaining power over eastern Libya and potentially undermining U.N.-led efforts to seek a political solution to the conflict. Ayman al-Warfalli reports at Reuters.

The U.S. Africa Command carried out an airstrike against an al-Qaeda affiliate in Libya this week, the U.S. military said yesterday, stating that one fighter had been killed in the attack which was coordinated with the Libyan government. Reuters reports.

   

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION FOREIGN POLICY

The Trump administration is expected to withdraw from the U.N. Human Rights Council, according to sources, who say that talks to address U.S. concerns – including what Washington believes to be anti-Israel bias – have not been fruitful. Stephanie Nebehay reports at Reuters.

Trump’s retreat from international leadership is being celebrated by China and Russia who will step in to fill the void left by the U.S., Phil Stephen writes at the Financial Times.

The United States has become a “rogue superpower” under Trump’s tenure, as demonstrated by his administration’s approach to his allies, to trade, Iran, N.A.T.O. and security arrangements in East Asia. Robert Kagan writes at the Washington Post.

   

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Trump has approved $50bn worth of tariffs on Chinese imports and his administration is expected to announce the decision today, with the potential to trigger a global trade war. Shawn Donnan reports at the Financial Times.

“The United States reiterated the urgent need to identify the sources of the attacks and to ensure they cease,” the State Department said in a press release describing the meeting between U.S. and Cuban officials yesterday, explaining that it had raised concerns about mysterious health symptoms experienced by U.S. employees at its embassy in Havana, Cuba at a meeting yesterday. Carmen Sesin writes at NBC News.

Norway’s request for additional U.S. troops to be stationed along the Norway-Russia border is “clearly unfriendly, and it will not remain without consequences,” the Russian Embassy in Norway said in a statement yesterday. Brett Samuels reports at the Hill.

The ongoing Gulf crisis is dividing Arab states and countries such as Kuwait and Oman have been “thrust into untenable positions” as they have to choose between Qatar or the Saudi-led bloc, which has isolated and blockaded Doha. Jonathan Schanzer and Varsha Koduvayur write at Foreign Policy.

 

Why the G7 Is a Zero

12 June 2018

Created in the 1970s, the Group of Seven has become increasingly irrelevant in a world of new emerging powers. An institution that claims to represent the main democratic economies but excludes the likes of Brazil and India cannot possibly claim the legitimacy required to exercise global leadership.

Jim O'Neill

Distinguished Fellow; Member of Council; Chair-elect of Chatham House

Members of OXFAM dress as G7 leaders ahead of the summit at Quebec in June 2018. Photo by Lars Hagberg/AFP/Getty Images

Share

   

Though US President Donald Trump’s appearance at the Group of Seven (G7)summit in Quebec last week was not particularly well received, I find myself sympathizing with his skepticism toward the group. I have long doubted that the annual meeting of leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States serves any useful purpose.

Back in 2001, when I coined the BRIC acronym, I predicted that the growing economic importance of Brazil, Russia, India, and China would eventually require a significant change to global economic governance. At a minimum, I observed, global-governance bodies should include China, if not all of the BRICs.

At the same time, I pointed out that there was little reason for France, Germany, and Italy to be represented individually, given that they share a currency, a monetary policy, and a framework for fiscal policy (at least in principle). And I questioned whether Canada and the UK should still be included among the world’s most important economies.

An artefact of a bygone era

It has now been 17 years, and the G7 is still serving little other purpose than to keep its member states’ civil servants busy. Yes, it still comprises the seven Western democracies with the largest economies, but barely so. At this point, Canada’s economy is not much bigger than Australia’s, and Italy’s is only slightly bigger than Spain’s. The G7 is an artefact of a bygone era.

In the 1970s, when the G5 was expanded to include Canada and Italy, the new grouping really did dominate the world economy. Japan was booming, and many expected it to catch up to the US; Italy was growing, and nobody was thinking about China. But this year, China is projected to overtake the entire eurozone. And at its current rate of growth, it will effectively create a new economy the size of Italy in less than two years.

Moreover, India’s GDP is already larger than Italy’s, and crisis-ridden Brazil is not far behind. In other words, the only global legitimacy that the G7 can claim is that it represents a few major democracies. But 85% of the increase in world GDP (in US dollars) since 2010 has come from the US and China, and nearly 50% from China alone. Another 6% has come from India, while the dollar value of the Japanese and EU economies has actually declined.

In light of these realities, the G7 would be much more relevant if Canada, France, Germany, and Italy were replaced by China, India, and a single delegation representing the eurozone. But, of course, there is already a body that represents the current G7 countries as well as the BRICs: the G20, which was formed 1999.

Since its first formal summit in 2008, the G20 has served a clear purpose as a forum for the world’s leading economies. For any smaller club to be justified, it must have the same legitimacy as the G20. Representing the democracies that had the largest economies in the 1970s is no longer good enough. After all, India and Brazil also have functioning democracies, and could soon become more prosperous than France and the UK.

Trump provoked outrage when he demanded last week that the G7 re-incorporate Russia, which was kicked out following Russian president Vladimir Putin’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. But it is worth asking what global challenges the current G7 is even capable of addressing, outside of narrow economic issues. From terrorism to nuclear proliferation to climate change, there are hardly any issues that can be solved without the help of non-G7 countries.

And though the Western media depicted Trump as the black sheep of the summit, Italy, too, now has a government that favors rapprochement with Russia. The recent G7 circus has added to the impression that Western policymakers are incapable of getting a grip on some of the world’s most pressing issues.

To be sure, global financial markets showed little concern about the disarray in Quebec last weekend. But, among other things, that may simply reflect the fact that the G7 no longer matters. Looking ahead, it is clear that the G20 offers a better global-governance forum than does the G7 in its current state.

Although a greater number of participants makes it harder to reach a viable consensus, it is also much more representative. Most important, the G20 includes the countries that will be indispensable for solving global problems now and in the future. That said, a smaller, representative group of countries could still have a future role to play alongside the G20. But only if it is properly conceived.

To that end, the world’s leading think tanks should start offering specific ideas about the future of global governance. For my part, I will look forward to leading the charge when I assume the chairmanship of Chatham House next month.

This article was originally published by Project Syndicate

Kazakhstan and China are expanding trade and economic cooperation

.

According to official data, the export of domestic products to China grew by almost 37%, exceeding US$5.5 billion in 2017. To-date, the total volume of trade between the countries amounted to US$11 billion. By 2020, the countries plan to increase the trade volume figure to US$40 billion. Experts say that the One Belt, One Road initiative becomes an effective instrument of international cooperation. The statement is also highlighted by the Chairperson of China’s National Development and Reform Comission, He Lifeng. HE LIFENG, CHAIRPERSON, NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND REFORM COMISSION, CHINA:  -  This year marks the fifth anniversary of inauguration of the Great Silk Road by President Xi Jinping at the Nazarbayev University. During this time, economic, transport and cultural cooperation has expanded between our countries. The Chinese have learned more about Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan is Russia's second largest economic partner in the region after China. Kazakhstan exports 20 types of food products, chemical industry, metallurgy and machine building. This year, six projects worth nearly US$2 billion will be implemented. Cooperation between Kazakhstan and China covers a wide range of areas. Recently, as part of the Silk Road program, Kazakh inventors presented unique projects to China’s 17 technology companies. Foreign entrepreneurs got acquainted with the best start-ups developing under the patronage of the Park of Innovative Technologies. ASKAR SEMBIN, SPOKESPERSON, PARK OF INNOVATIVE TECHNOLOGIES:  - On July 2nd and 3rd, Astana will host a forum titled ‘Megapolis: the Silk Road.’ We are interested in China's advancement in environmental standards and understanding of sustainability. They have a well-developed program on transferring to electric vehicles and improving the quality of life. We see that it is already impossible to breathe in the Chinese cities. Speaking on our needs, we have local problems such as traffic jams, delayed construction and high operating costs. These are aspects which China is struggling with and the state has a state program. In this regard, we would like to get the experience. As part of 63 steps of the Plan of the Nation, the Park of Innovative Technologies create Technology Centers in partnership with leading transnational corporations in the Industry 4.0, new materials and financial technologies. As part of the Startup Kazakhstan program, 50 promising and innovative projects have been selected from the republic and the Commonwealth of Independent States. Each project has already received funding

http://kazakh-tv.kz/en/view/business/page_194356_cooperation-on-china%E2%80%99s-one-belt-one-road-initiative

If you want to share article from Kazakh-tv.kz, use hyperlink below.

June 14, 2018

U.S. senator wants ‘death sentence’ for ZTE

SupChina

Chinese telecom giant ZTE has had a rocky couple of months. It’s not out of the woods yet.

The company nearly shut down after the U.S. Commerce Department cut off the 25-30 percent of its supply chain that comes from America on April 14, following an investigation that found it had violated sanctions on Iran and North Korea. Li Yuan, a new columnist at the New York Times, calls this a possible “sputnik moment” for China (paywall), because as long as the country still imports 90 percent of its semiconductor components, its technological prosperity is “built on sand.”

President Donald Trump then decided to save the company and strike the deal, in what trade adviser Peter “Death by China” Navarro recently described as “a personal favor to the president of China as a way of showing some goodwill for bigger efforts, such as [the nuclear summit with North Korea] in Singapore.” Details of that deal for ZTE’s pay-to-play were announced last week.

Now a bipartisan group of U.S. senators has inserted an amendment into the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act that again puts the future of ZTE in question.

“At this point, the only fitting punishment is to give them the death sentence,” Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas said of ZTE as he advocated for the amendment, the SCMP reports.ZTE is “a multiple and flagrant violator of U.S. sanction laws and we can’t let them off the hook with the slap on the wrist,” Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland added.ZTE’s stock fell 40 percent on June 13, the day that its trading resumed, on the news of its new limbo, the New York Times reports (paywall).But these efforts are “likely to fail,”political analysts at the Eurasia Group said in a statement cited by the SCMP, because the Republican-controlled House of Representatives will be “reluctant to challenge the administration so close to the [Fall 2018 midterm elections].”

In and out of Congress, there are still many questions being raised about exactly how Trump was persuaded to strike a deal to bring ZTE back.

“Trump’s kid-glove treatment of the company raises questions about possible links between it and Trump family businesses,” write (paywall) a political scientist and two lawyers, one of whom is serving as co-counsel in a case against Trump for accepting foreign bribes, in the New York Times.They suggest that ZTE is being saved as part of a “bargain” to personally benefit the Trump family, pointing to a China-linked project with Trump’s name in Indonesia, new China trademarks for Ivanka Trump, and the news that Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, raked in $82 million last year from not-fully-disclosed sources while serving as White House advisers.

—Lucas Niewenhuis

Shocking letter by Colonel Purohit to Human Rights Commission exposes how he was tortured

The 24-page handwritten complaint details the various kinds of torture Col. Purohit was subjected to

By

 Team PGurus

 -

June 14, 2018

The 24-page handwritten complaint details the various kinds of torture Col. Purohit was subjected to

The shocking 24-page letter written by Lt.Col.Shrikant Purohit is now out. This is his complaint to National Human Rights Commission in December 2013, describing how he was tortured for weeks by a Military Intelligence Officer and Maharashtra Police ATS team in October and November 2008. In his complaint Lt.Col.Purohit says he was brutally tortured by Maharashtra ATS officers late Hemant Karkare, Parambir Singh (the current Thane Police Commissioner) and Military Intelligence Officer Col.Rajiv Kumar Srivastav aias RK Srivastav, then based in Delhi HQ.

In his heart-wrenching complaint, Lt. Col. Purohit also accuses other Maharashtra ATS officers Mohan Kulkarni (then ACP-Mumbai in ATS) and Arun Khanvilkar (then Senior Inspector of ATS) for brutally torturing him for weeks pre and post recording of the arrest on November 5, 2008. A few days back Times Now had reportedthis shocking letter. We are publishing this letter at the end of the report. How a serving Army Intelligence Officer was tortured for creating a fake political narrative by Congress regime is exposing in this heart-wrenching letter.

Purohit reveals he was picked up from Army Education Service’s Training School in Pachmarhi in Madhya Pradesh on October 29, 2008, by Col.R K Srivastava with an order from Delhi Intelligence Head Quarters to join with them for a discussion. After issuing a movement order, they took over all his mobile phones and at Bhopal airport, Srivastava told him that they are taking him to Mumbai airport. At Bhopal Airport, Srivastava became rude and told him not to call any phones and threatened that they will beat him. At Mumbai airport, Intelligence Bureau officer Sanjeev Garg was waiting with a vehicle to transport Purohit. In the late night when Purohit was transported to a Mumbai interrogation centre and immediately interrogation started and within hours beating started in the presence of Hemant Karkare and Parambir Singh for days asking him to admit to own up responsibility for the Malegaon blast.

“Col.R K Srivastava suddenly pounced on me from his chair and initiated brutal physical assault with vulgar possible abuses about my mother, wife, and sister. Col.R. K. Srivastava started slapping me without any respite and also started kicking me all over my body. As if everything was pre-rehearsed and planned the officers of Inspector level of ATS Maharashtra Police besides some constables got into the action and virtually pinned me down to my chair holding my hands behind the backrest and pulling my hair thereby exposing my face to receive blows on my face,” said Purohit in details the torture on him to take responsibility for Malegaon blast.

Purohit details how along with Col. R K Srivastava, ATS Chief late Hemant Karkare and the now Thane Police Commissioner Parambir Singh IPS tortured and stripped and attacked at his private parts to confess and own up the responsibility of planting bombs and explosives used in Malegaon blast. The complaint of Purohit to National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is a spine-chilling one, exposing how Congress-led UPA regime tried to create a narration of Hindu Terror.

The recently released book – “Hindu Terror – an insider account of Ministry of Home Affairs” written by former Under Secretary R V S Maniexposes the mysterious link of Digvijaya Singh, the Congress leader and first proponent of fake Hindu Terror Theory and IPS officer late Hemant Karkare. In 2006, when R V S Mani was summoned by the then Home Minister Shivraj Patil at his office, hours after the blast in Nagpur RSS Head Quarters, Digvijaya Singh and Hemant Karkare were sitting there. While Shivraj Patil was sititng silent, it was Digvijaya Singh and Hemant Karkare who were asking questions to RVS Mani about the blast. Mani was the Under Secretary in Internal Security Division and his explanation on the role of SIMI elements in the blast did not go well with Digvijay and Karkare. In his book, he describes how these elements started floating fake Hindu Terror theory.

Coming back to Col.Purohit’s letter on his torture by the rogue officers under the instruction of Sonia Gandhi controlled Congress regime – When he was produced before Magistrate in November 5, though threatened, Purohit was courageous to explain the torture met him by these cruel officers Col. R K Srivastava, Hemant Karkare and Parambir Singh led assault team.

At the end of this report, we are publishing the entire 24 pages of complaint of Col. Purohit detailing the terrible torture he met at the hands of these rogue officers under the instructions of their political masters to create fake ‘Hindu Terror theory.”. We are urging all readers to read it carefully to understand the cruel regime controlled by Sonia Gandhi.

After Purohit detailed to Magistrate about the torture, he was admitted in Army Hospital for treatment. All hospital records show that he was tortured brutally and many of his body parts including private parts were met with injuries and numb. The worst was after releasing from hospital these rogue officers take him to custodial interrogation officially. Those days Congress leaders fed media was filling their pages with ‘Hindu Terror or Saffron Terror Theories’. NDTV, Indian Express, and Tehelka were leading the pack with Union Home Ministry and Maharashtra planted these kinds of fake news items. The journalists who wrote these kinds of – swallow and vomit – journalism and bagged awards and made their career should read Col. Purohit’s 24-page letter published below.

In official custodial interrogation, torture and brutality went for weeks urging Purohit to admit the crime of distributing bombs and explosives to other “Hindu terrorists” led by Sadhvi Pragya. His body was kept hanging in different positions in iron rods for many days while beating by ATS team. The ATS officers were urging the constables to rejoice in beating an Army Colonel!!!.

During torture, the ATS officers threatened him that they will plant explosives at his home and put mother and wife in prison. “Your kids will be orphans,” they shouted at him. For weeks, every hour the interrogation team will inflict injury and twist his private parts by stripping him and hanging on iron rods in different positions.

We once again urge all readers to go through the below published 24-page handwritten letter by Col.Purohit to National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), describing all kind of tortures he faced for the floating of fake ‘Hindu Terror Theory” by Sonia Gandhi controlled UPA regime in 2008-2009 for political gains.

We must admit the courage of Col. Purohit not to budge to the demands even after this spine-chilling torture by the assault team led by Col. R K Srivastava, Hemant Karkare and Parambir Singh. NHRC and NIA must start a probe on this shocking incident and punish the rogue officers to ensure justice is done to Col. Purohit. All the rogue officers should face the law for custodial torture. There should be a wider probe on this issue to identify the evil design of cruel political masters headed by Sonia Gandhi, P. Chidambaram, and Digvijaya Singh.

The 24-page complaint of Col.Purohit to National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is published below:

Annexure 2 by PGurus on Scribd

Artificial Intelligence and International Affairs

https://www.chathamhouse.org/publication/artificial-intelligence-and-international-affairs

Disruption Anticipated

DATE

 14 June 2018

PROJECTS

International Security Department, US and the Americas Programme

AUTHORS

Dr Jacob Parakilas, Mary L. ‘Missy’ Cummings , Dr Heather Roff, Kenn Cukier and Hannah Bryce

ISBN978 1 78413 212 5

DOWNLOAD PDF 517 KB

CONTENTS

Executive Summary

For all of human history, politics has been fundamentally driven by conscious human action and the collective actions and interactions of humans within networks and organizations. Now, advances in artificial intelligence (AI) hold out the prospect of a fundamental change in this arrangement: the idea of a non-human entity having specific agency could create radical change in our understanding of politics at the widest levels.

Not least because of the influence of literature, cinema and television, popular thinking about AI can tend towards the fanciful. Fictional, apocalyptic depictions of war between humans and robots have influenced breathless coverage of sometimes relatively minor AI developments. Periodically, too, leading figures in the fields of science and technology have issued stark warnings that AI may pose an existential threat to human life. Together, these have given rise to a perception among the general public that a new form of intelligence that exceeds human intelligence is just around the corner – or even with us already.

Humans and limited forms of AI already coexist: AI technology helps us to navigate, to translate text and to find cheap flights, to give just a few examples; and – notwithstanding its known flaws and limitations – it looks set to be emblematic of a radically transformed future.

But the more extreme ideas of what advances in AI may mean for how humans live, work and engage is far distant from the current reality. The nature of AI in 2018 – and very likely for the foreseeable future – is somewhat mundane. Indeed, the field is seeing relatively minor advancements that bring specific practical benefits in identified areas, rather than AI with general application. Services such as Google Translate, for instance, are undoubtedly useful, but the increased efficiencies created by such services do not yet hold out the prospect of noticeably changing the power balance at the international level. A truly non-human intelligence would likely do so, but a constructed system capable of operating on a comparable level to a human brain – an artificial general intelligence, or AGI – would require a broad-based advancement in every aspect of the field: hardware, software, and even our understanding of what cognition actually is.

Technological change does not have to be dramatic or sudden to create meaningful shifts in power balances or social structures

The more prosaic advancements are not insignificant, however. Technological change does not have to be dramatic or sudden to create meaningful shifts in power balances or social structures. Indeed, focusing on the distant prospect of dramatic change may well distract from developing a more nuanced understanding of slower and subtler, but equally significant, changes.

This Chatham House report examines some of the challenges for policymakers, in the short to medium term, that may arise from the advancement and increasing application of AI. It is beyond the scope of the report to offer a fully comprehensive set of predictions for every possible ramification of AI for the world. Significant areas not addressed here – including medicine, public health and law – might be fundamentally transformed in the next decades by AI, with considerable impacts on the processes of the international system. Furthermore, towards the end of the process of compiling the report, public attention has increasingly turned to the possibility of AI being used to support disinformation campaigns or interfere in democratic processes. We intend to focus on this area in follow-up work.

This report does not attempt to offer specific predictions for the progress of discrete technological avenues, or proposals for specific avenues of technological development. Rather, it draws together strands of thinking about the impact that AI may have on selected areas of international affairs – from military, human security and economic perspectives – over the next 10 to 15 years.

The report sets out, first, a broad framework to define and distinguish between the types of roles that artificial intelligence might play in policymaking and international affairs: these roles are identified as analytical, predictive and operational.

In analytical roles, AI systems might allow fewer humans to make higher-level decisions, or to automate repetitive tasks such as monitoring sensors set up to ensure treaty compliance. In these roles, AI may well change – and in some ways it has already changed – the structures through which human decision-makers understand the world. But the ultimate impact of those changes is likely to be attenuated rather than transformative.

Predictive uses of AI could have more acute impacts, though likely on a longer timeframe. Such employments may change how policymakers and states understand the potential outcomes of specific courses of action. This could, if such systems become sufficiently accurate and trusted, create a power gap between those actors equipped with such systems and those without – with notably unpredictable results.

Operational uses of AI are unlikely to fully materialize in the near term. The regulatory, ethical and technological hurdles to fully autonomous vehicles, weapons and other physical-world systems such as robotic personal assistants are very high – although rapid progress towards overcoming these barriers is being made. In the longer term, however, such systems could radically transform not only the way decisions are made but the manner in which they are carried out.

The report then turns to examine the near-term implications of AI applications in the military, human security and economic fields. Missy Cummings, looking at the military sector, concludes that truly autonomous weapons systems are still some distance away: a combination of operational and doctrinal issues have largely prevented their adoption hitherto, although remotely operated vehicles are increasingly prevalent for some applications such as aerial and undersea reconnaissance. She argues that a significant shift in gravity is under way between traditional defence industries and the non-defence technology industry, with implications for how military systems are designed and acquired.

Heather Roff argues that AI does have positive implications for human security, but that unlocking progress means first understanding the roles in which AI can be put to positive use – and, critically, understanding the difference between using data (which machines can sort effectively) and knowledge (which humans remain far better at). She concludes, furthermore, that in order to fully reap the potential benefits of AI in the realm of human security, proactive steps need to be taken to ensure equality of access to technology.

Kenn Cukier makes the case that AI is likely to reshape what work looks like, but that it is unlikely to fundamentally change underlying economic power structures. Artificially intelligent systems – both those employed in operational roles (like autonomous vehicles) and those in analytical and predictive roles – are likely, in his view, to create significant wealth, but the distribution of that wealth will not inherently become more equal for humans.

Building a framework for better managing the rise of artificially intelligent systems in the near term might also reinforce the process of mitigating longer-termrisks

AI technology may have profound impacts on economic and geopolitical power balances, but it will require clarity of purpose to ensure that it does not simply serve to reinforce existing inequities. Building a framework for better managing the rise of artificially intelligent systems in the near term might also reinforce the process of mitigating longer-term risks. To this end, the report makes the following recommendations for governments and international non-governmental organizations, which will have a particularly important role in developing and advocating for new ethical norms:

In the medium to long term, AI expertise must not reside in only a small number of countries – or solely within narrow segments of the population. Governments worldwide must invest in developing and retaining home-grown talent and expertise in AI if their countries are to be independent of the dominant AI expertise that is now typically concentrated in the US and China. And they should work to ensure that engineering talent is nurtured across a broad base in order to mitigate inherent bias issues.Corporations, foundations and governments should allocate funding to develop and deploy AI systems with humanitarian goals. The humanitarian sector could derive significant benefit from such systems, which might for example decrease response times in emergencies. Since AI for humanitarian purposes is unlikely to be immediately profitable for the private sector, however, a concerted effort needs to be made to develop them on a not-for-profit basis.Understanding of the capacities and limitations of artificially intelligent systems must not be the exclusive preserve of technical experts. Better education and training on what AI is – and, critically, what it is not – should be made as broadly available as possible, while understanding of underlying ethical and policy goals should be a much higher priority to those developing the technologies.Developing strong working relationships, particularly in the defence sector, between public and private AI developers is critical, as much of the innovation is taking place in the commercial sector.Ensuring that intelligent systems charged with critical tasks can carry them out safely and ethically will require openness between different types of institutions.Clear codes of practice are necessary to ensure that the benefits of AI can be shared widely while its concurrent risks are well managed. In developing these codes of practice, policymakers and technologists should understand the ways in which regulating artificially intelligent systems may be fundamentally different from regulating arms or trade flows, while also drawing relevant lessons from those models.Particular attention must be paid by developers and regulators to the question of human–machine interfaces. Artificial and human intelligence are fundamentally different, and interfaces between the two must be designed carefully, and reviewed constantly, in order to avoid misunderstandings that in many applications could have serious consequences.

Pedantry in motion: European intervention hits the language barrier


Commentary

Ulrike Esther Franke 
@rikefranke
07th June, 2018

German politicians struggle to endorse Emmanuel Macron’s proposal for a “European Intervention Initiative” not least because the term intervention sounds misleading in German.

In international politics, small things can be very important. A policy’s success often hangs not only – or even mainly – on its merits, but also on more mundane things. Timing is one; language is another. This fact helps explain why Germany is struggling to support French President Emmanuel Macron’s European Intervention Initiative (E2I) – despite Chancellor Angela Merkel’s recent, cautiously positive statements on the undertaking.

Berlin’s hesitation over the French-led E2I begins with the acronym itself. For many German defence experts, the abbreviation is already taken. Last week, I spent a full ten minutes debating the E2I with another German security analyst before realising that we were talking about different things. In Germany, “the E2I” refers to the German-led Enable and Enhance Initiative. Anchored in the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy, the German E2I focuses on helping local actors solve local conflicts. The attempt to repurpose the acronym is particularly problematic because the Germans have significantly invested in, and are quite proud of, their E2I.

In contrast to Berlin, Paris has jealously guarded its E2I, wary of allowing Brussels to control the initiative. The exact nature of the French E2I remains unclear. In his high-profile September 2017 speech at the Sorbonne, Macron called for an initiative “aimed at developing a shared strategic culture”. He continued: “I thus propose to our partners that we host in our national armed forces – and I am opening this initiative in the French forces – service members from all European countries desiring to participate, as far upstream as possible, in our operational anticipation, intelligence, planning and support.” As Nick Witney notes, this can mean many things: “left of arc, an intervention force; right of arc, a sort of military Erasmus.” 

The acronym issue may be unimportant in isolation, but it compounds a broader naming problem with the French E2I – its use of the term “intervention”. The French “intervention” (imagine it spoken softly in a French accent) has a different meaning to the German “Intervention” (imagine it spoken forcefully in a German accent). In French, “intervention” is a broad term. At its most basic, it just means “doing something”. For example, giving a speech or talking in a seminar can be described as “une intervention”And, of course, even when the French use “intervention” in the military sense, it does not carry the stigma it has in Germany.

In Germany, “Intervention” is a toxic term. It is a loanword that is not widely used, and it describes a very specific thing: a military intervention. This is bad news for the French E2I, as Germans do not like anything military. Even worse, in Germany, the term “Intervention” is inextricably linked to the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, which marked an extreme low point in German-US relations, split Europeans between “old” and “new” Europe, and – in the German mind, at least – led to the rise of the Islamic State group.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that German politicians struggle to endorse a “European Intervention Initiative”. For German voters, such a scheme sounds like a proposal that Europe engage in Iraq-style military interventions.

A clear explanation of the French E2I might help a bit – and, in any case, is necessary for the initiative to move forward – but the broader problem will not go away. Many German voters (as well as other Europeans) will only ever see the headlines about their country joining a European Intervention Initiative. Therefore, from a public relations perspective, the name is arguably the most important aspect of the project.

It is astonishing that the French missed this. It would have been no surprise to learn that, say, the US administration had such a tin ear on European concerns. But the Macron government had until recently been closely attentive to German sentiments – even fitting Macron’s major speeches around the German political calendar, to help gain Berlin’s backing for his proposed reforms.

A recent “intervention” by Defence Minister Florence Parly suggests that the French might have picked up on the naming problem. In her speech at ECFR’s Annual Council Meeting, she changed the acronym to “EI2” (although a ministry official later suggested she might have misspoken, as there appears to have been no official change), and acknowledged that the German “sensitivity around the intervention thing” was not completely solved yet. For now, the “intervention/Intervention” problem remains. Macron’s project may well fare better if it is renamed the “European Security Initiative” – at least until the next think-tanker comes along to point out the problems with that name.

http://www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_european_intervention_initiative_hits_the_language_barrier

The Marib paradox: How one province succeeds in the midst of Yemen’s war

Source: ECFR.eu

Policy Brief

Adam Baron 
@adammbaron
12th June, 2018

SUMMARY

The province of Marib in Yemen has undergone a remarkable transformation, from a place of conflict to beacon of relative stability even while the war continues in Yemen, including not far from Marib.Central to this improvement is the leadership shown by the province’s governor, Sheikh Sultan al-Arada, who has taken advantage of the decentralisation drive that was supposed to form part of Yemen’s post-uprising transition but which has recorded only patchy success.Marib’s newly acquired autonomy has allowed it to retain a share of its natural resource wealth, improve infrastructure, and expand government services, including paying state employees regularly and supporting a functioning judicial system.Decentralisation processes which are locally led in this way represent a core lesson for international players interested in extending stability and peace across Yemen.Europeans should work to bolster stabilisation in Marib while applying its lessons elsewhere in Yemen, at all times linking their efforts to those of the UN while collaborating with regional and international partners.

INTRODUCTION

If you lived in Marib – and had survived the recent conflict that rolled across it – you would have stood witness to one of Yemen’s most troubled provinces transforming into arguably its most stable. Not only that, you might even agree that today Marib is thriving. Construction is everywhere in Marib city. A new football stadium, boasting German turf and built to FIFA standards, is rising from the ground. Businesses from across Yemen are moving here. A new independent university is welcoming 5,000 students and has plans to expand further.

Some of the fiercest fighting in the recent conflict took place in Marib – and continues to take place in the province’s western district of Sirwah – but Houthi-allied forces retreated from the provincial capital and other key areas in 2015. In the ensuing period, local authorities, with the aid of key regional powers, most notably Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, succeeded in restoring relative stability. Once one of Yemen’s most restive provinces, Marib has emerged as a new economic and socio-political centre, something unprecedented in its recent history. After centuries of marginalisation, many Maribis will triumphantly tell you, it has regained a slice of its historical importance: Marib was once the seat of the Sabaean empire, one of pre-Islamic Arabia’s most powerful and advanced urban centres.

The wounds of war linger still. Damage from the fighting is visible on many of the city’s buildings, while the main hospital remains filled with patients who have lost limbs, whether from the fighting itself or from landmines left by the Houthis and their allies. And on the border between Marib province and Yemen’s capital Sanaa, the bloodshed continues.

Nevertheless, something has gone right for Marib in the way that it has not for provinces elsewhere in Yemen. Some things are unique to Marib, like its natural resource wealth, stable local power structures, and effectively driven support from international actors belonging to the Saudi-led coalition, including, most notably, Saudi Arabia itself. That being said, Marib’s experience holds wider lessons for Yemen’s future: embracing decentralisation, empowering local actors, and focusing on ground-up stabilisation are all strands of the story that international and local players interested in bringing peace and stability to Yemen should note.

THE LEGACY OF WAR

In 2011, Yemen experienced an extended anti-government uprising. Sparked by protest movements that unseated long-time leaders in Tunisia and Egypt, the uprising came amid building instability in Yemen, which had witnessed insurgencies across the country along with deepening tensions inside its political and security establishment. Initial scattered protests eventually coalesced into nearly year-long demonstrations against President Ali Abdullah Saleh, pulling in independent youth activists previously uninvolved in partisan politics, backers of the Houthis, Yemen’s establishment opposition, defectors from Saleh’s General People’s Congress party (GPC), and backers of a return to autonomy in the formerly independent south. But the movement was riven with fractures and historical tensions between its components beyond the shared aim of bringing about the fall of Saleh.

These tensions only deepened in the wake of the signing of a deal mediated by the Gulf Cooperation Council and backed by the United Nations. This was an agreement to transfer power between the GPC and the establishment opposition parties and which saw Saleh cede power to his long-time deputy, Abdo Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who was to preside over a two-year transition. Despite efforts to incorporate parties outside of the agreement into the mainstream political process – most notably through the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) process set up as part of the power-transfer agreement – events outside the transitional period soon overtook the wider transitional process. In the south – an independent state until 1990 – dissatisfaction with what was seen as a Sanaa-centred process led to open support for secession. Meanwhile, in the north, even while the NDC continued, the Houthis engaged in a continuing series of battles with their tribal and military rivals, inching close to Sanaa before finally seizing military control of the capital in autumn 2014.

As the Houthis consolidated power, they eventually ousted Hadi. After Hadi fled house arrest and rescinded his resignation, the Houthis and their allies – military backers of former president Saleh – took the fight to Hadi’s new base in Aden, using the Yemeni air force to bomb his position and forcing him to leave the country. This – in addition to the Houthis’ decision to carry out military exercises along the Saudi border and sign an agreement for direct Sanaa-Tehran flights, among other issues – prompted the Saudi-led coalition to launch a military intervention in Yemen. While the Houthis have been dislodged from much of the territory they initially took, they maintain control of Sanaa and the internationally recognised president – and most of the cabinet – has not yet returned to Yemen.  

The resilience and capability of state institutions varies considerably across the country. In areas of Houthi control, state institutions have largely remained but have been weakened by both the financial crisis and the growing strength of parallel institutions set up by the Houthis. Meanwhile, the liberation of key areas from the Houthis and al-Qaeda – most notably, the former southern capital of Aden – has not led to a flourishing of peace and stability. On the contrary, many places have become fields of tension and conflict between Emirati-allied secessionist forces and elements of the internationally recognised government.

A central plank of Yemen’s post-Arab uprisings transitional process was a move to a federal system of governance. Analysts and diplomats alike – both within the international community and within Yemen itself – had often drawn a link between the country’s historically centralised system of governance and its deep corruption, uneven security situation, and internal tensions: following pro-unity forces’ victory in the 1994 civil war, centralising amendments to the constitution and Saleh’s concentration of power in the hands of a tight circle of allies led to a vast system of patronage that binds in key tribal and political figures. This, in turn, fuelled deepening resentments among many Yemenis, who saw the new class growing wealthy as the nation remained poor and, particularly outside Sanaa, underdeveloped. This was particularly true in provinces such as Marib, Hadramawt, and Shabwa which remained impoverished and suffered from weak infrastructure. 

After the 2011 uprising once-taboo discussions about federalism resurged, with many international (particularly Western) organisations and diplomats openly pushing for a shift to federalism. Many Yemenis had previously regarded talk of federalism as tantamount to paving the way for the dissolution of the country. Eventually, however, the internationally backed NDC ended with a decision to establish a federal system.

The new federal system was controversial from the start. While NDC delegates endorsed a federal system, they failed to agree on the number and nature of the federal divisions. In response, they authorised Hadi to appoint a special committee to decide the issue, which promptly reached a decision to split the country’s provinces into six super-provincial federal divisions. Even at the time, many observers took issue with the way the agreement was reached, arguing that it was pushed through by Hadi in an undemocratic fashion.[1] Others took issue with the way the country was divided: Yemeni analysts criticised the collection of most of the country’s Zaidi Shia-majority provinces into a single, resource-poor region lacking a port as a potential invitation to conflict. They criticised the starkly unequal population totals of different regions: both the Yemeni Socialist Party and much of the secessionist Southern Movement condemned the division of the formerly independent south into two regions. Others, harbouring a long-standing suspicion of federalism, cast it as part of a nefarious plot to divide and weaken the country.

That being said, in many parts of the country the new system was seen as a potential means for more equitable governance. This was particularly true in the new “Saba” region, which was made up of the provinces of al-Bayda, al-Jawf – and Marib. Activists and local officials in Marib saw the new situation as a means of finally gaining a mechanism for benefitting from the impoverished province’s resource wealth, which historically went to the central government.[2]Initially, this enthusiasm manifested itself in a variety of ways. Politically active youth from Marib and nearby provinces – many of whom were energised by their participation in the 2011 uprising – assembled pressure groups, something that was paralleled by movements led by civil society and political groups.[3]They aimed to transfer the new energy in the capital to the provinces, seeing the new federal system as a means of achieving long-held aspirations for greater development and democratisation, building on nascent civil society activity predating Saleh’s removal from power.

However, the process largely stagnated after the NDC ended. The transitional period overran its theoretical two-year duration and dissatisfaction grew with the economic situation and the deepening power struggle in the country’s north. Regardless of great expectations, the new federal system failed to move significantly from paper to the ground. Much of the rhetoric on the matter has had a counterproductive effect, deepening pre-existing anxiety over federalism and ultimately missing an opportunity to draw attention to the ways that the country as a whole can benefit from shifting to a more functional and locally driven decentralised governance system.

ENTER ARADA

As much of the rest of the country has been embroiled in conflict, Marib stands out as the one place where decentralisation has had some success.

Some history: with the discovery of oil in the 1980s and the opening of Marib refinery in 1986, the province acquired a new importance. But while the extraction of Marib’s oil and gas reserves grew to provide a significant proportion of the central government’s revenue, the province itself saw little of the benefit. As a result, Marib remained impoverished and undeveloped while government institutions were too weak to effectively funnel any of this wealth back to it. And, all the while, the province grew in infamy, as a security vacuum emerged which facilitated banditry and the spread of extremist groups like al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

In the wake of the 2011 uprising, figures in Marib seized on the evolving political situation to press for change in the province. Among them was its current governor, Sheikh Sultan al-Arada. A former member of parliament and member of a prominent family from Marib’s Wadi Abida tribe, Arada was appointed governor of Marib by Hadi in 2012 having spent nearly a decade relatively absent from formal politics after breaking with former president Saleh.[4] Arada was not just a native of the province but has long been based in Marib, rather than Sanaa, something that has helped him build legitimacy on the ground through his skill in resolving tribal disputes. His grounding within Marib’s tribal system granted him local legitimacy. This has allowed him to present himself as close to his constituents – in contrast both to other local notables, who previously spent much of their time in the capital, and to officials of the current internationally recognised government, who have been largely based abroad.[5]

Following the Houthis’ takeover of Sanaa in September 2014, Arada emerged as a leader of efforts to prevent them from seizing Marib. This was in line with the anti-Houthi stance of key elites in the province. Most key figures in Marib opposed – and, indeed, fought – Houthi attempts to expand there. These elites include historic allies of Saleh, such as Sheikh Abdulwahid al-Qibli Nimran, the head of the Marib branch of Saleh’s party.[6] This military role only grew in the wake of a Saudi-led coalition’s launch of Operation Decisive Storm in March 2015, as Arada became a key figure in aiding and facilitating the military effort against the Houthis, drawing on his military background and deep knowledge of the tribal and societal fabric in the province.

Another reason for his recent success is that, in contrast to many other leaders in the fight against the Houthis, Arada opted to decisively plunge himself into governing following the liberation of most of Marib province from the Houthis in 2015. While others withdrew from the scene, continued the fight elsewhere, or fell prey to political manoeuvring, Arada instead recommitted to his vision as governor. Since then his key focus has been not just on restoring stability, but also on restructuring Marib’s historically fraught relationship with the central government: taking advantage of the government in exile’s relative distance, he has aimed to secure a level of autonomy within a provisional government, in addition to pushing forward a financial decentralisation plan that has guaranteed his government a direct share of the province’s natural resources wealth.[7] This has been facilitated by the implementation of decentralisation measures in line with those introduced under the NDC. More idiosyncratically, these advances are possible because of the current conflict. With most of Yemen’s urban centres either occupied by the Houthis or mired in political or military conflict, Marib has gone from being a marginalised town to an important urban centre.

Arada’s policies provide potential lessons for the rest of the country, particularly with regard to the shape Yemen will take after an eventual peace settlement. The reorganisation of the security forces has allowed for an unprecedented level of security in the city and even many rural areas. By bringing in more local leaders and forces, and pushing for greater accountability and transparency, current policies have increased trust in the security sector, while the governor’s efforts have seen a locally rooted force built in coordination with the government and interior ministry.[8] According to local officials, crime has fallen by 70 percent.[9] Simultaneously, in contrast to other areas in Yemen, Marib’s legal system was quickly reconstituted after the Houthis were pushed out, with judges’ salaries and personal security guaranteed.[10] This focus on transparent and legitimate local law and order capabilities is central to understanding the stability that has descended upon the province. The fruits of the changes are already evident.

At the same time securing a share of oil and gas revenues has helped to spur the expansion of government services, in addition to funding the payment of government employees.[11] Owing to an agreement made between the central government and Arada, Marib’s local administration has been able to keep 20 percent of its oil and gas revenues, rather than having to submit it all to the central government as it did before 2011.[12] This has been a huge factor in the province’s current prosperity, not simply due to the influx of money, but also due to the greater autonomy it has enabled: unsurprisingly, locally based officials have proven willing and able to engage in the development work that the province needs, including long-delayed improvements to Marib’s electricity, water, and transport infrastructure. This has also allowed it to be the only province to consistently pay its government employees. This, in turn, has helped to further build the economy, creating a more favourable environment for investors.

Crucially, the backbone of all of this has been trust-building measures. In contrast to the distance of many other officials in contemporary Yemen – many of whom are literally based outside the country – local officials in Marib regularly meet with representatives of political parties and tribal factions to try to reach consensus in decision-making, something that officials and activists in the province alike cast as a key factor in its current stability.[13] This has largely come from taking advantage of aspects of Marib’s pre-existing tribal system, rather than trying to force Marib’s political ecosystem into newly created structures.

This is not to say that Arada is not without detractors. Many members of the GPC party and other political parties have accused him of demonstrating favouritism to members of the Sunni Islamist Islah party, arguing that it has been the beneficiary of a disproportionate number of appointments.[14] Some tribal leaders from elsewhere in the province, while stressing their respect for the governor, have argued that he has demonstrated a bias towards his fellow Wadi Abida tribesmen, marginalising others in the province.[15] Regardless, his ability to maintain a critical mass of popular support – exhibited perhaps by the absence of the kind of wide-scale popular protests witnessed in other parts of Yemen – has undeniably aided his administrative efforts.

The international relationships that Arada and his administration have managed to develop are also crucial to the province’s success. Arada’s prominence in the fight against the Houthis and their allies allowed him to build upon his pre-existing relationships with key figures within Saudi Arabia and the UAE, both of which have long-standing historical ties to the tribes of Marib. This close cooperation has only deepened over time, particularly following the Saudi-led coalition’s decision to locate a base in Safer, to the east of the provincial capital, between Sanaa and Marib. This is no accident: located in the centre of the country, Marib is among Yemen’s most strategically located provinces, serving as the crossroads between: Saudi Arabia; key fronts in the neighbouring provinces of al-Bayda, al-Jawf, and Sanaa; and areas in the south from where the Houthis have already been expelled. For Arada and the coalition, this is a mutually beneficial arrangement: the Saudi-led coalition benefits from having Marib as a safe base of operation, while coalition support has helped him to increase the province’s stability.

Even after Arada shifted his focus from conflict to post-war governance, key military and political figures in both Saudi Arabia and UAE continued to maintain close ties with the governor despite his cordial relations with the Islah party, which is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. This has not just facilitated aid, but, according to witnesses on the ground, this has also improved the allocation of aid: close coordination between local officials and Gulf donors has helped direct external, overwhelmingly Gulf, funding of key projects, ranging from the improvement of health facilities to the bolstering of local security forces. This has also given the province crucial leverage with the internationally recognised government, which remains riven with factional divisions. Because of his ties with key coalition leaders, Arada has been able to rise above the gridlock that often characterises relations with the Yemeni government.[16]

“Look to the way coalition countries deal with [Arada],” noted an official in the internationally recognised government, contrasting the governor with other officials in similar positions. “There’s a clear level of respect since they view him as a statesman – this has been key to Marib’s success.”[17]

In many regards, this trust has won Arada the space to devote much of his time to the task of governing – in addition to putting governance in a position where local forces are comparatively in the driver’s seat, particularly in contrast to many other parts of the country where the coalition has a more direct role.

In contrast to the factionalism of other areas of the country that the Houthis have been ejected from, Marib has largely coalesced around Arada. This is not to say that there are not tensions in some form, particularly with regard to allegations of an undue concentration of power in the hands of the Islah party and Arada’s tribal allies. Nonetheless, such tensions pale in comparison to those in cities, like Taiz and Aden, which have witnessed vicious infighting between anti-Houthi forces.

CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS

While fighting continues in Sirwah, in the west of Marib province, the current conflict is distant enough that residents of the provincial capital have been able to decisively embrace a post-conflict scenario – and, crucially, one where rebuilding has been followed by marked urban expansion. In part, this is thanks to factors unique to the province. Marib city is the only major conurbation in northern Yemen completely out of Houthi control. In contrast to Aden – which the internationally recognised government of Yemen has declared Yemen’s temporary capital, but which is also a base for increasingly powerful southern secessionists – Marib does not suffer any regionalism-related tensions. This means that Riyadh-based government officials from the north are able to frequently make extended visits to Marib and move around with relative freedom there, although there have been several cases of extrajudicial detentions of Yemenis with alleged ties to the Houthis in the province. Trade – most notably in cooking gas produced in Marib – continues to cross conflict lines into Houthi-controlled territory, even as battles at the nearby fronts rage on. Buses from Sanaa and other areas under the control of the Houthis and their allies pass by regularly and largely without incident. This is despite the fact that the Houthis and the local administration in Marib remain bitter adversaries. Fighting continues on the Sirwah and Nihm fronts, while the Houthis occasionally launch rockets into the province.

All this is indicative of the extent to which Marib’s stability has solidified its nascent position as an economic centre. Almost perversely, much of its subsequent success has been driven by the troubles experienced by the rest of the country: the influx of economic activity and development would certainly have been far less substantial were it not for the influx of internally displaced persons, wealthy exiles, and cash.

That being said, Marib’s stabilisation is rooted in its capable and locally rooted leadership. The way in which it has made the most of the decentralisation that was meant to extend across the whole of Yemen has been central to this improved situation. Hosting significant natural resource wealth has been essential but direct financial benefit has come about precisely because of how the leadership negotiated the new federal system. All this has been complemented by strong backing from external players, namely Saudi Arabia, which has pursued a far more efficient approach than witnessed in other more dysfunctionally managed non-Houthi areas of the country.

As a result, there are three key lessons for other parts of Yemen and for international observers to draw.

The first is the importance of avoiding top-down decentralisation or stabilisation processes. Historically, the central government has been anxious about overly popular or charismatic locally rooted leaders, viewing them as a potential threat. Nonetheless, such leaders will be crucial to stability, particularly in light of the central government’s relative collapse after more than three years of conflict. In addition to identifying and empowering local leaders, stakeholders should bring these leaders into the wider political process to ensure this remains tied to a national dynamic. Without a national umbrella there is clearly a danger that too overt a localised track will feed succession tendencies and encourage fragmentation. In areas of the south where these sentiments are already intense, the genuinely autonomous model demonstrated by Marib may be one of the few ways of creating a framework that can still hold the country together in a unitary, albeit loose, fashion. This will require a delicate balancing act. But going local is now unavoidable if the country is to be stabilised. Critically, any future political deal should not try to reverse this trajectory with a new centralising drive in a manner that feeds new resentments and risks provoking further unravelling. Marib’s new autonomy is here to stay and should become a model for elsewhere rather than rolled back once the wider conflict dies down.

This represents a potential opening for Europe given its relatively neutral position in the conflict and key European actors’ pre-existing outreach to players currently outside of the political process, such as tribal figures, southern secessionists, youth, women, and civil society groups. This will be comparatively easy in Marib owing to Arada’s positive relations with the central government. European governments, working with the UN, could aim to advance this track by facilitating discussions between local leaders and key stakeholders while working to implement more decentralised aid and stabilisation programmes. Europeans can bring substantial expertise to the table on issues related to federalism and this should be channelled via the UN to facilitate current political efforts that can help secure a sustainable peace. There is a strong precedent for this: former National Democratic Institute Yemen head Robin Madrid’s work in Marib and neighbouring provinces in the early 2000s is still fondly remembered by local tribal leaders, who continue to express appreciation for her leadership in efforts to bolster civil society, local governance, and development. 

The second lesson from Marib relates to the importance of locally owned and legitimate economic growth and the restoration of services in stabilising an area. Marib’s stabilisation led to its economic boom, in turn further stabilising the province and providing jobs for locals and new arrivals alike. Ultimately, this will be a key way of restoring peace: Yemen’s failed 2011-2014 transitional process showed that ignoring economic and quality-of-life grievances in service of higher-level political aims risks fuelling the wider delegitimisation of the political process among average Yemenis. Europeans and other key actors should therefore prioritise rapid post-conflict stabilisation efforts, service restoration, and the encouragement of economic growth across the country as soon as conditions allow. This will require far greater funding and focused local efforts than Europeans are currently engaging in, particularly in impoverished areas lacking local natural resources. But it is already possible to replicate this track in other parts of the country that have entered a period of stability, such as Hadramawt, Mahra, and Shabwa provinces. Europeans should immediately focus on stepped-up stabilisation efforts, whether directly through aid and investment or by facilitating it through infrastructure support. They should also encourage inclusive government and internal dialogue as well as reconciliation efforts. Marib’s gains may be significant, but, as long as conflict continues, they remain fragile and must be safeguarded.

The third lesson relates to the key potential role that the coalition can play in stabilisation: this presents a means of collaboration between Europe and the coalition – something that can build trust between the two parties that could be replicated elsewhere. Working in collaboration, Europe, the Saudis, and the Emiratis can reproduce the spirit of the Marib model in other parts of the country by empowering local leaders and decentralised governance structures. They should also make sure to link this to UN efforts, particularly with regard to using economic and development levers to advance national political negotiations. This is particularly true with regard to key avenues that all sides see as important, specifically in facilitating economic growth and development – even through actions as seemingly minor as microfinance programmes – and through capacity-building involving security forces, local administration, and government staffers. Here, Europeans and particularly the United Kingdom, given its close relationship with Riyadh, should press the coalition to truly internalise the lessons of Marib for wider implementation. It is no secret that the dysfunctionality and ill-fitting nature of international interventions in Yemen has often exacerbated the country’s problems. All key stakeholders in Yemen – including the UN, Europe, and the coalition – should learn the lessons of Marib. This will in part require Saudi Arabia to move its focus away from exiled politicians in Riyadh and towards those based on the ground.

In short, while Yemen remains in the throes of a deep economic crisis and a debilitating conflict, there remain bright spots of stabilisation, most notably in the province of Marib. While partially rooted in local factors, these places are nonetheless potential models for the country – something of which Yemen is in dire need.

 

About the author

Adam Baron is a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. He focuses on the Middle East with an emphasis on Yemen and the wider Arabian Peninsula. His previous works for ECFR include ‘Yemen’s forgotten war: How Europe can lay the foundations for peace’. He is a co-founder of the Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies, a Yemen-focused research centre.

 

Acknowledgements

I am indebted to a number of colleagues at ECFR for their help and support on this paper, particularly Julien Barnes-Dacey and Adam Harrison, in addition to the many people in Marib who have consistently made my research on and fieldwork in the province rewarding and fruitful.

Footnotes

[1] The six-region federal map was agreed upon by a subcommittee formed out of members of the National Dialogue Conference. It was rejected by representatives of the Houthis and the Socialist Party.

[2] Author interviews, local government officials Marib, November 2017.

[3] Author interviews, youth activists, Sanaa, March 2014.

[4] Author interviews, local government officials, Marib.

[5] Author interviews, Maribi tribesmen, Marib, November 2017.

[6] Author interviews, Maribi tribal leaders, Cairo, October 2017.

[7] Author interview, Marib, November 2017.

[8] Author interview, local official, Mary 2018

[9] Author interview, local official, Marib, November 2017.

[10] Author interview, Sultan al-Arada, Marib, November 2017.

[11] Author interview, Central Bank of Yemen official, March 2018.

[12] Author interview, Central Bank of Yemen official, March 2018.

[13] Author interview, Yemeni tribesmen, Marib, November 2017.

[14] Author interview, Yemeni tribal leader, Cairo, October 2017.

[15] Author interview, Yemeni tribal leader, Cairo, October 2017.

[16] Author interview, local government official, Marib, November 2017.

[17] Author interview, Yemeni official, Marib, November 2017.