Archive for category Global Issues

A Failed State?

A semi-arid country with hardly any arable land faces the challenge of feeding its population of 9.1 million, a third of which depends on food aid. With a birth rate of 43.7 births/1000 population and a death rate of a staggering 15.5 deaths/1000, famine and diseases are the least of the problems of Somalia.

The country has lacked an effective central government since President Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991. After the failure of the fourteenth transitional government, the state’s situation has deteriorated into the world’s worst humanitarian and security crisis. Insecurity, violence and desperate poverty have been the norm. Within the complex web of problems in Somalia is that of Piracy. Various international organizations such as the World Food Programme and International Maritime Organisation have shown concern over this issue. In 2009 US President Barack Obama said that Somali piracy has to be brought under control and has prompted Nato to take the lead in anti-piracy operations.

However, what is new is that this issue has once again gotten the world concerned over the goings on of this collapsed state. The Somalis have learnt to live under the circumstances where risk of death and bloodshed are unexceptional hazards. Losing faith in the government, the Somali diaspora have helped create informal sector businesses and a fairly well maintained private sector leading to a growing economy. The brave country has a GDP per capita of $333 which is greater than that of Ethopia and Tanzania. However, about 40% of the population thrives on less than US $1 a day.

Piracy, however is a symptom of a much bigger problem. The core of the crisis is the dire need of a political settlement. Somalia, is a clan based society. The warring clans fiefdoms have greatly divided the country. A strong administrative system is required for the reconciliation of these warring militias. The rising Islamists stood in the way of the establishment of a central government since 2006. The Islamist insurgents fought against the government winning control of most of Southern Somalia by late 2008.

The absence of a long-standing government led to the rise of piracy as the only means of survival for the population which has seen a civil war for the past 20 years, combats with grinding poverty and hunger, shifting alliances, and international intervention with a steady supply of unemployed young men and cheap weapons.

While the internationally recognized government of President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmad struggles to gain control of is own capital city of Mogadishu, political stability remains a distant dream. In 2009, the Al-Shabab (maning ‘the youth’ in Arabic), drove Hizbul Islam out of the Southern port of the city and has declared its open alliance to Al-Qaeda emerging as the most powerful Islamic insurgent group in the region.

What Somalia needs is to end this internal warfare for which it requires international alliance which can be sought from nearby countries like Eritrea, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Qatar for training and equipping the country’s security forces.

An intriguing question is: Will Somalia see the return of UN peacekeeping forces in order to quell the chaos and lawlessness? This refreshes the memory of the 1993 peacekeeping mission when the bodies of the US soldiers were stripped naked and dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. What is expected of a peacekeeping mission is that the Al-Shabab will simply scatter and resurface once the peacekeepers run out of funds and leave forcing the region to become even more chaotic and dangerous.

This week Somalia’s 19th Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke resigned as the government’s failure to put an end to Islamist insurgency and the death of thousands of civilians continues. The outside world has for too long seen Somalia as a threat to its own security as a major exporter of terror. The piracy issue appears to have a silver lining as it may lead to a greater, and more serious engagement of the world with Somalia’s political and developmental problems, perhaps encouraging involvement in ending its chronic instability.

Samana Ali
FY-K

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Somalia Youth Voice

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The Spread of Communism

In the mid nineteenth century, Karl Max published The Communist Manifesto, which bought communist parties into the limelight. China, North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba  soon followed suit, the major reason for this being that these developing Third World countries were striving for national independence and social change.
Communism appealed to these countries since they experienced a polar society, where most of the resources were controlled by a few people from the upper class. In his book, Marx declared that communism would consist of a classless society. He believed that the society would work on the principle of “from each according to his ability,to each according to his need”. Communism therefore appealed to the masses, as it promised to level the playing field by offering everyone equal opportunities in life.
Marx believed that capitalism would choke on its own wealth and collapse, which would be followed by the working class rising up and establishing a new, classless society.This anti-capitalist society lead to hoards of propaganda against capitalism, with catch-phrases like ‘capitalism is the source of all evil” being widely adopted by communist revolutionaries.
Ironically,however, none of the countries which adopted communism suffered from the conditions which Marx described.Rather than choking on over consumption and over production, these countries lacked infrastructure and a solid industrial set-up.Cuba is an excellent example of such a country. The Cuban economy was struggling, but the popular consensus was that the economy would never improve unless American control over it would not end. This idea was exemplified by the fact that in 1962, the USA controlled 60% of the sugar production in Cuba. Coupled with this, Fulgencio Batista, with American support, overthrew the Cuban government in 1934.Batista became a symbol of American dominance. Discontent against Batista’s rule gradually grew over time, until he was inevitably overthrown by a nationalist leader in the form of Fidel Castro.
Thus, communism found its roots not in developed countried, but rather,in developing nation like Cuba, North Korea, and Vietnam. History has been a witness to the bare starking realities of communism, which have been far remote from its ideologies. Rather than saving the masses from oppression, it was a tool used by dictators to establish a more corrupt and non-accountable system. The two-faced nature of communism was summed up by the Cuban poet and statesman, Jose Martini when he said:
” Socialist ideology, like so many others, has two main dangers. One stems from confused and incomplete readings of foreign texts, and the other from the arrogance and hidden rage of those who, in order to climb up in the world, pretend to be frantic defenders of the helpless so as to have shoulders on which to stand. ”

Usman Khaliq

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Crisis in Darfur

Imagine a dry, parched land, filled with three different communities of farmers and a nomadic Arab population, all trying to eke out a living. Then imagine rebel militia attacking government targets, in a bid to attract attention and manifest the resentment felt by many at the perceived neglect of the central government. After over 4 years of fighting, clashes and uncertainty at every turn, more than 2 million civilians have become refugees, hundreds of thousands of fearful Darfuris (200,000 being the most widely accepted estimate) have been killed and attacks are renewed everyday. Welcome to the western Sudanese region of Darfur, a much harped-about but little known-about region playing host to some of the worst war crimes and human rights atrocities ever witnessed. (While the US and some activist groups claim that there is an ongoing genocide, the UN has denied this.)

From time immemorial, seasonal fluctuations in water and grazing land had led to conflict over natural resources in Darfur. This time, however, the crisis has escalated to a point where several million people, across borders, across ethnicities, tied together by nothing but their combined innocence, are at risk.

There are two main rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (Jem), although both groups have split, some along ethnic lines. These groups accuse the government of favouring Arabs over black Africans, and oppressing the later. The government denies this charge, as well as the accusation that it is supporting the Janjaweed militant group, who are accused of trying to ‘cleanse’ the region of blacks.

Meanwhile, while well-read individuals argue over how to label and group these different players, refugees tell tales of Janjaweed men riding into villages after government air raids, killing the men, raping the women and taking all that they can find. Multitudes of women have reported being abducted and kept as sex slaves for week by the Janjaweed groups.

The 7000-strong African Union observer mission is hard pressed to protect civilians in the region, facing armed opposition of bureaucratic restrictions at every turn. While the United Nations Security Council has approved a 26,000 strong peacekeeping force for the area, it has been refused entry by the Sudanese government. The government also opposes the UN’s attempt to try up to 50 key suspects at the International Criminal Court, promising to try members of security forces thought to have committed abuses, but this is seen as a panicked attempt to maintain its own authority. This is, after all, the same government that has promised to disarm the militant Janjaweed group, which still patrols the limits of refugee camps, attacking starving refugees who stray too far in search of food and water. At the end of the day, however, as many point out, what good are peacekeepers when there is no peace to keep?

Up to 200,000 refugees are camped along the border with Chad – close to escape, but still, inevitably, vulnerable. With diplomatic tussles putting their status at risk, they may seek shelter in Chad’s eastern areas, which have a similar make-up to Darfur. Following a 2006 deal with a major militant leader, it was hoped that the situation would improve, but it simply worsened. There has been a dramatic increase in violence and displacement since the deal was signed. While aid agencies are doing their best to help resolve the situation, they too are at great risk.

Today, the conflict between the government and the Janjaweed against armed opposition groups is not the only source of insecurity in Darfur. After more than four years of conflict, armed men on all sides are benefiting from the total collapse of law and order to loot the livestock of vulnerable people, hijack humanitarian vehicles and relief supplies, impose war “taxes” and extort “protection” money. The emergence of a strong war economy also threatens to perpetuate the conflict. Camps for the displaced have become so crowded and volatile, with so many uncontrolled small arms in circulation, that they present a danger even for those who are attempting to provide humanitarian services. In some camps, government police and AU forces are no longer allowed entry and there is no institution entrusted with guaranteeing security and administering justice. And so, even ‘refuges’ are no longer safe. It seems that security is an almost impossible fantasy, looking at the current situation – all that can be hoped for is, not surprisingly, a deal. Yet until wheeler-dealers resolve their arguments, whether or not there is a clean winner or loser, it is the common people who bleed, who suffer, who really lose.

By: Akbar S Ahmed

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The War on Terror – And Us

The Effect of the War on Terror on the Average Grammarian

When the World Trade Center collapsed on that fateful day that was September 11, I was in seventh grade. It was evening and I was watching an episode of Friends – coincidentally situated in New York City – when my screen flickered to an image of two buildings imploding into flames and dust and an ‘America Under Attack!’ caption blinking furiously underneath. This was clearly no comedy.
Going to school the next day was a feat. Everyone was talking about it. Students, teachers, canteen-wallas. All I remember was a general and unmistakable feeling of excitement. We knew what had happened was big – tremendous even. But few of us knew what it meant. And perhaps none knew what would happen next.
As Grammarians, we didn’t realize the implications of 9/11 for us when it just happened. We did a good job of distracting ourselves, first with the ‘What were you doing when the towers collapsed?’ and then the ‘Would you turn in Osama if he was hiding in your garage?’ epidemic. And then we distracted ourselves with the politics. We debated about the impact this would have on America’s foreign policy and budget. It all helped us get our minds off what it meant for our future. And perhaps that was good. Because that’s where it would hurt the most.
In the year 2000, 34 Grammarians got accepted into the top 10 US Colleges. In 2002 – one year after the September 11th attacks – that number was slashed by less than half and 14 students were admitted into the same top colleges. Ironically, even though we are moving further away from 9/11 – it is 2008 now – the numbers remain stuck where they are. Since 2001, a growing number of students have opted for UK colleges over American ones. Even those who are offered positions in US colleges may not eventually make it. Student visas are much harder to come by today. The War on Terror has broken homes; destroyed families. But it has also broken the dreams of many hopefuls; shattered the hope of getting into that college that many of us have worked tirelessly all our lives for.
It is not only college hopefuls who have been victimized by the War on Terror. Indeed, those already in college were dealt greater blows. Immediately after the attacks, one old Grammarian was asked to step off an American plane as it was ready for take-off on the requests of suspicious on-board passengers. Another Grammarian in college was approached by an American and asked, ‘Why do you hate us? What have we ever done to you?’ A third Grammarian, let us call him Ahmed, was taking a train from Canada to America. An official came by to check everyone’s passports and when he saw Ahmed’s green passport, he told him to stand at the back of the train so he could keep an eye on him. Tragically, it is not only us Grammarians but Muslims from every country around the world who have been victims of this discrimination.
We’re too enmeshed in school life and tests to really think about the war on terror’s affect on us. But the debris and shards left by that explosion are with us all. It has made us, as Grammarians re-examine and question our religion. It has created uncertainties. And it has given bloom to anti-West feelings where there were none.
The short drive to school is no longer safe. Suicide bombings occur by the day and protests rage on steps away from our campus. The War on Terror is now a natural, routinely part of our lives. Whether this War will ever end, is anyone’s guess. Until then, and for now, the War on Terrorism continues to terrorize all of us.

By: Minal Khan

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Kenya in crisis

Kenya used to be considered one of the most stable nations in Africa. But come December, 2007, that reputation was shattered, and it won a new one – the most violent democracy in the world. Following massive controversy and rigging allegations, which were confirmed by foreign observers, violence broke out on a colossal scale across the once-peaceful nation. The government, and President Mwai Kubeki, were condemned for rigging the polls, and the opposition, led by Raila Odinga and his Orange Democratic Movement gave vent to its rage by instigating the public and in the days that followed, over 900 people lost their lives.

Up to 600,000 people have been displaced following the chaos. The largest single loss of life was when a church providing shelter from the violence to 200 people was set alight by rioters, burning 35 people to death. The people who were sheltering were members of President Kibaki’s tribe, the Kikuyu, against whom the ODM have been accused of facilitating violence. Age-old tribal rifts have been torn open again by the polls, and in areas like the Rift Valley, where different tribes used to live together harmoniously, rape, kidnappings and, quite simply, racial violence and hatred have one again come to the fore. Yet it is Kenya’s poor who are pitted against each other, those who live without running water, and with infant mortality rates up to 7 times the national average. Those who have least are those who are losing the most. Another important issue has also sprung up; namely, the results of the massive fear and hectic violence nation-wide on the country’s numerous AIDs patients. Out of 600,000 people who have been displaced in Kenya’s post-election violence, at least 15,000 are HIV-positive.

Health officials are still trying to assess the impact six weeks of violence has had on the country’s battle with AIDs.

Just how big a setback this has been may only emerge once a durable peace deal is in place – for some AIDs patients that might simply be too late.

The economy has been hard-hit as well, as Kenya’s main industry, tourism, went down the drain, following foreign fears and international media coverage of the hectic state of the country. Tourism was on the crest of a wave. It was the country’s top foreign revenue earner and brought in about $1bn last year. And yet over the last month, over 20,000 people working in tourism have lost their jobs. The other big industry was also linked to tourism – horticulture, a thriving sector, with 65% of Kenya’s vegetables and flowers making their way to Europe. A recent meeting of 300 heads of Kenyan industry drew up a report estimating the damage to the economy. They suggested that the chaos of the past few weeks would cost $3.6bn by the end of the year, and as many as half a million people could lose their jobs. It is not a pretty picture, and such estimates simply strengthen the fears that the effects of this crisis will be felt for a long, long time, across many different strata.

There is a valuable example here for us in this country, a vision of what can happen when elections are controversial, rigged or simply not a capable of truly transmitting the views of the people. It is a blessing for Pakistan that we had such a peaceful election, widely hailed as relatively fair, with results accepted on all sides. Yet there is a warning in the Kenya example for politicians too – rousing the rabble may be effective as a show of strength, but it can quickly, and heartrendingly, spiral out of control. The politics of moderation are what is needed, the world over, without manipulation or instigation, but with just one all-important element: human participation, and the transmission of the people’s voices.

By: Akbar S Ahmed

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United Nations: The Only Security

This is a response to a previously written post, ‘United Nations: A False Security.’

Many have attacked the United Nations for its debilitating veto powers. Some may go so far as to cite examples of the failure of the United Nations. They may point to conflict torn regions such as Kashmir, Congo and Iraq. It is true that there cannot always be a consensus on affairs. It is also true that the United Nations was seemingly powerless at the brink of nuclear devastation in the form of the threat posed by the Cold War. However such critics fail to see the valuable contribution of the United Nations to our World.

To start with the United Nations goes further than its predecessor the League of Nations which faltered before the outbreak of war in 1939. History is not repeating itself because this new peace body has the essentials necessary to prevent conflict. The United Nations has a peace keeping force which is and has been active. We can consider the example of the peace forces going to enter Darfur alongside the African Union forces. The various peace patrol missions and skirmishes in Kashmir also compliment such claims. There efforts are concentrated against insurgents and warlords who promote further instability in these regions.

There would be no room for diplomacy and negotiation without the United Nations. The purpose of the organization is to unite nations by bringing them together in the form of council meetings and assembly style meetings. In other words nations are presented with a uniform viable platform for them to discuss matters of interest. This reduces the margin for misunderstanding and suspicion greatly. We’ve all seen the Cold War with the United Nations , but what we need to ask ourselves is could there be a Cold War without a United nations. Without effective communication the world would have slipped into the bowels of nuclear catastrophe. So when the allies sat down at Potsdam and Yalta in 1945 ;not only did they sow the seeds for a future Cold war , they set the boundaries for that very war by establishing the United Nations. They ensured that this war would never become too severe. They secured a Cold war – a word of wards and terror rather than weapons and confrontation.

The United Nations protects the very rights that we live by. It guarantees us the right of property, religion and self determination. We are protected by the International code and are given rights that no tyrant, dictator can rightfully deny us. The United Nations has prepared a more liberal, open world for us. We can breathe without the fear of some government robbing us of our rights and dignity. There is that assuring promise of someone above holding criminals accountable. And Indeed the The Hague in Holland serves as a court to international crimes. Terrorists such as Bin Laden are a concern for the international community at large rather than just one nation. On similar grounds intellectual property and patents are protected by the WTO, IMF and other such organizations. War criminals are brought before a court and held responsible for the various atrocities. A free world exists where justice and human rights is extended to all.

When we think about the United Nations we must embrace it as a savior and protector. It would be unfair to dismiss it as a biased puppet of any nation or regime. The U.N brings peace, justice and freedom to every corner of the globe. It links us and firms the bond of one people, one world and one struggle. We are bound together with love and respect for humanity. In my opinion there could be no greater service to mankind.

Shahryar Malik

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The New Great Game

Since the 19th century there has been a battle raging in Central Asia. Russia urged on by Napoleon fumbled for imperialist possessions in the region. In fact the Tsar and Napoleon came to an agreement to conquer and divide the world together. However the splendid British Raj in India was to play a pivotal role in Britain’s desire for the status quo in the region. Both super powers were therefore forced into a battle which has become famous as “The Great Game.”
With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 a power vacuum has once again engulfed the region. There is an opening with key players such as the fundamentalist Taliban.

The U.S has tried to fill the gap as they see fit. The truth of the matter is that today’s current state of Afghanistan is really a legacy of the Cold War. The “Afghan Miracle” as we may call it here in Pakistan was a disastrous campaign for the Soviet Union. Funds were poured in from left right and centre to bolster the Taliban regime against the Russians. As the two new super powers confronted each other in the effort to install puppet regimes – a divided and un-stable Afghanistan began to emerge. This legacy would toil on for another century producing terrorism, war and conflict in the region. It was this very legacy that would give rise to the notorious Osama Bin Laden and guerrilla warriors of the Middle East. It’s surprising to me that when people talk about the end of the Cold War we always look back at the remains of the infamous Berlin Wall. What we all should be looking at instead is the situation in Afghanistan; right at our own doorstep.

There are many differences between the old great game and the new great game. The former was fought for glory and the quest for an Asiatic empire. However today’s great game is far pettier. Its motives lie in the abundance of oil and mineral deposits in the region. We have seen the game manifest itself in the U.S invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Were these countries really thriving with the alleged weapons of mass destruction or was there just another obvious power vacuum? One thing is for certain, the more the Bush administration commits itself to war in the region: more and more illiterate locals will be forced to take up arms in the form of terrorist plots and suicide bombings. The tragedy of September the 11th could not have happened without the attack on Afghanistan. Similarly the invasion of Iraq will only act as a fuelling agent in the force of anti-U.S global terrorism. It is a simple case of cause and effect.

The Afghani people share a common hatred for foreigners or “khar.” They could not tolerate the Russians for their atheist beliefs. How can we truly expect them to accept an American presence in their homeland when even Pakistanis are dismembered from the Afghan fraternity? My answer to this Middle Eastern problem is that the Afghani and Iraqi people should not be provoked further. Just like the once divided Berlin, this legacy too can only be solved with time and patience. If the Western world and the United States just back away from the region they will have more to gain than to lose. Peace and stability will descend upon a region which has been torn apart by chaos and turmoil for not decades but centuries. The Afghani people should be left alone to resolve their problem. If they choose to end up in a world veiled by Talibanisation than that is their choice in the free world. The United States government is walking a tight rope. It cannot afford to make any more enemies in the region with the imminent threat of Iran and the Uranium enrichment programme. So in a nutshell, if there is this “problem” in Afghanistan, it is a problem for Afghanistan and the Afghani people alone. Continued American presence in the region will only encourage and not deter terrorist factions.

In the end this new great game has created a very volatile Middle East. The issues of Israel/Palestine are spilling over into Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. Gone are the days of isolated wars and battles between nations. The next major upheaval in the region will send a shockwave of domino effects through the region and at once all the powers big and small will be involved. There will be no more room for diplomacy with factions such as Al Qaeda, Hammas pushing matters to a head. There will be no room for peace negotiations. The cause will be long but forgotten and mankind will sprawl into a hopeless war where missiles and suicide bombings will rule supreme.

Shahryar Malik

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The Israelli Paradox

Most people consider the new Middle-East a more stable region compared to that of the 1980’s and 1990’s. The changes in the balance of power in this geography have probably been the most significant developments of the last decade. However, it is likely that to this day the region remains as volatile as it was in the past, as claims one professor at the University of California at Berkeley. “Within the last nine years there has been an undeniable restructuring in the state of affairs of the Arab East, but the extent to which these changes have brought progress is difficult to evaluate… There still remains a Hegemonic Nuclear Israel surrounded by non-nuclear antagonistic Arab states”.

To suggest that the situation today is superior to that of ten years ago would be of little value, without investigating the Middle-East conflicts of 2006-2008. For that purpose I present a précis of where the world was headed almost a decade ago.

As the ‘War on Terror’ raged on it became evident that Iraq would not escape civil war. Former President of the United States of America George.W.Bush made one last attempt to stabilize the situation with an added 30,000 troops, raising the levels to 160,000. Unfortunately, the anarchy continued and the Americans remained unwilling to accept that their strategy of intervention had failed. No WMDs were ever found.

The end of the war correlated with the end of the Republican term in the White House and the beginning of the First woman President of the United States’ term, President Hillary Rodham Clinton. Furthermore, in 2006 the Israel-Lebanon conflict had left Israel reeling from its poor performance against Hezbollah. The country suffered further diplomatically when the President was put on open trial for allegations of sexual wrongdoing and ethical misconduct (a first in Israeli history).

In Lebanon civil strife had begun, the political party Hezbollah openly challenged the democratically elected government. The government remained defiant despite paralyzing strikes and the country continued to recover from damage done during the Israeli-Lebanese air-strikes.
In Palestine serious conflict broke out between the Hamas group (legitimately elected) and the Fattah group. The EU was keen to play an important role, and former President Jimmy Carter (Nobel Prize laureate) released the critically acclaimed book ‘Peace not Apartheid’, a significant stepping stone on the way to resolving the Palestinian conflict. The book later became a voice for the Palestinians in the international forum.

Today little remains the same. It wasn’t soon after Iran tried to develop its nuclear potential that the United States and its allies moved in to redraw the map of the Middle-East. In Clinton’s first year as president we saw the reorganization of the Iraqi state in to 3 sub-divisions, namely New Iraq, Greater Baghdad and Kurdistan. The divisions were made according to religious sects; the Sunnis hold majority in New Iraq and the Shias in Greater Baghdad, while the Kurds are the majority in Kurdistan. Many Middle-East analysts argue that this separation was unneeded as the violence almost completely came to an end with the withdrawal of the coalition forces. Today the three states share a common foreign policy and defensive strategy but have independent democratically elected rulers present. Today more visits are made by Greater Baghdad government officials to Iran, than to its neighboring country New Iraq. Today we see more segregation than ever before. “Ask the common man and he will tell you that even Saddam Hussein’s regime was better than this” says Middle-East analyst Riz Khan from the Al-Jazeerah network. Mr. Khan strongly believes that the Iraqis don’t actually like the state division but are apathetic towards it, as what they remember from before the division was much worse. At the least we must acknowledge that the Iraqi state federation is no longer in the shape it was in 2006.

Moving further west we have the second Israeli-Lebanese conflict in ten years. The Israeli government attacked the southern border of Lebanon in June 2009. It claimed its legitimacy over this attack as a hunt for terrorist organizations creating unrest in Tel Aviv.
Initially, Lebanon was carved out by the British in its de-colonization period. Since then there has been perpetual conflict between the two countries. This was the third attempt by Israel in the occupation of Lebanon’s southern territories and finally one that seems permanent. Greater Israel today comprises of territories once considered a large portion of Lebanon. 7 years after the conflict came to an end and no significant terrorist groups were uncovered, 30,000 Israeli troops still remain in the southern region bordering what remains of Lebanon today.

The greatest celebration in the Middle-East lay with the long awaited independence of Palestine, finally recognized by Israel. Some say that this had to do with mounting pressure from the EU. Others say it was because Israel had then recently captured significant Lebanese territory and felt it must give up one to gain the other permanently. Today the Palestinians share a legitimate seat in the U.N and although they celebrated independence officially in late 2009 there is still recognizable Israeli influence in respect to the military and administration, not allowing significant anti-Israeli elements to enter the Palestinian government.

Israel has undoubtedly been the largest cause of change in the Middle-East in the last decade. It was Israel that finally headed the anti-Iran military campaign. Although not done at ground level, it was Israeli pilots that were marked for actually having bombed the Iranian Nuclear Reactors. The unrest that followed was probably the worst to date and there is no doubt that today Iran is considered a member of the Axis of Evil ‘neutralized’ by the West. The Iranians on the other hand, will not forget this ‘injustice’ that easily, as their nuclear aims did not violate the rules and regulations of the NPT or the IAEA. We can rest assured that the passivity of the Iranians today will not last. Iran has had its Nuclear program completely dismantled and is going through the vestiges of the stringent U.N sanctions that have lasted almost six complete years.

Has the Middle-East become more stable in the last decade? The answer to that question lies in rather indirect factual information. Firstly, the United States enjoys a strong military base in the United Arab Emirates. A document was declassified last year claiming that they have a well-secured and stable energy policy in place. Secondly, Israel significantly dominates the region with no close competition. It seems Iran will never successfully develop a nuclear energy program as it has been classified as a rogue state. Thus by linking the causes to the initial instability in the region we can conclude that today there is little threat of war. A success in the form of Palestinian independence pacifies others that may have been a threat to peace. However, there is still no balance of power. Perhaps it is not possible to attain balance in the world’s most volatile region. “It won’t be soon till the Iranians retaliate, and then the Lebanese soon after that” says Riz Khan. “It’s only a matter of time”.

Eman Niazi FY

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A Sad Day for the World

I watched the news closely as it became clear that Saddam Hussein’s hanging was imminent. Charged for crimes against humanity and sentenced to death on one of the many allegations, he was hung on the 30th of December at the Khadamiyah intelligence centre in Baghdad at 6:00am. I woke up to see the Footage of Saddam, as he walked himself to the gallows, staring down the masked Men that surrounded him. This footage was then followed by clips of footage that portrayed Saddam at the pinnacle of his oppressive tyranny and the interviews of many Kurds celebrating his death, and a new beginning for Iraq.

It couldn’t have been further from the truth. There are no denying Saddam’s crimes and few will take the indefensible position of doing so. However, the situation in Iraq is one that deteriorates day by day, December now officially the worst month of the war since it began-the monthly death toll at its highest.

A minister from Saddam’s government appeared on Sky news within recent days and began his interview by stating that Saddam was a terrorist, but the current Prime Minister (Maliki) and cabinet that govern the country are no less than tyrants. “They are not politicians, they are businessmen getting rich on oil money” he said, as he was cut short by the Sky news correspondent. A figure known by few is that oil leaves the country at $ 18.00 a barrel to the United States and Britain, while international prices fluctuate in the sixties. Yet these statistics and others such as those about Iraqi casualties rarely hit our screens. Few know the real figure of Iraqi casualties since the war began, as numbers of Allied forces increase by the digit.

Many are criticizing the court for not following proper procedure in Saddam’s trial. The law states that in cases regarding capital punishment, a defendant may not be punished till he is trialed on all accounts. The trial was said to convict Saddam by the 27th of January. Yet it happened a month earlier, in what seems a hurried attempt to finish ‘unfinished business’ before the exit strategy is in place.

Libya announces 3 days of mourning, and a CNN middle-east analyst justifies the ‘lack of celebration’ or rather silence as a common norm amongst the Arab world. Another car bomb kills 30 in Kufa. Perhaps that’s why they are still quiet.

In this hour, watching footage of the man undoubtedly guilty of the deaths of over 180,000 Kurds I question if the world has ever so slightly progressed. France used a similar foreign strategy in the 1700’s, invading countries on account of ‘defending the homeland’ and establishing a republic so that the people of that country could enjoy the basic freedoms they deserved. Napoleon had the King of Spain executed at the steel scaffold like a common criminal in front of thousands, promising a brighter future to the people. The French soon had to leave Spain, just like the Americans and the Brits will soon leave Iraq. One questions that there is no light at the end of the tunnel for the Iraqi people, as the anarchy continues and the tyrant is executed a martyr on the holy day of Eid.

Extracts from Saddam’s hand written letter after being convicted of the death sentence:

“Here I offer myself in sacrifice. If God almighty wishes, it [my soul] will take me where he orders to be with the true martyrs, If my soul goes down this path [martyrdom] it will face God in serenity……..I call on you not to hate because hate… makes you blind and closes all doors of thinking. I also call on you not to hate the people of the other countries that attacked us.”

“Dear faithful people,” Saddam added, “I say goodbye to you, but I will be with the merciful God who helps those who take refuge in him and who will never disappoint any honest believer.”

Eman Niazi FY

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