Source: The Economist
It is as if China ordered Britain to shut down the BBC.
Irony is not dead in the Middle East. In April Saudi Arabia, a land where women may not drive, or leave the country without the written permission of a male “guardian”, or appear in public without an all-enveloping cloak, was elected to the UN’s committee on women’s rights. Now that same monarchy, where the government censors everything from political dissent to risqué Rubens paintings, and where a pro-democracy blogger named Raif Badawi has been sentenced to 1,000 lashes and ten years in jail, is trying to shut down the only big, feisty broadcaster in the Arab world, Al Jazeera. This is an extraordinary, extraterritorial assault on free speech. It is as if China had ordered Britain to abolish the BBC.
Al Jazeera is based in Qatar, a tiny, wealthy Gulf state that the Saudis, Emiratis, Bahrainis and Egyptians are subjecting to a heavy-handed blockade. Qatar’s sins, in Saudi eyes, are manifold. It is friendly with Iran (though so are Oman and Dubai, which are not subject to the same strictures). It harbours dozens of people the Saudis do not like, including some with close links to groups affiliated to al-Qaeda. And it owns Al Jazeera. READ MORE…
The internet and social media were once hailed for creating new opportunities to spread democracy and freedom. But authoritarian regimes soon began cracking down on internet freedom. They feared the brave new digital world, because it was beyond the reach of their analogue security establishments. Their fears proved unfounded. In the event, most social media-enabled popular uprisings failed for want of effective leadership, and traditional political and military organizations retained the upper hand. Technology does not stand still, and nor should democracy.read more
ISIS threat ‘is going to morph’ and possibly go underground in Iraq, says Maj.-Gen. Mike Rouleauread more
Government corruption provided Daesh and local militias with the umbrella they needed to seize power in Iraq, officials and lawmakers told Arab News on Thursday. They said Iraq’s security and political stability will remain threatened as long as corrupt officials continue to control the country’s assets. Iraq is high on the list of the most corrupt countries. The Iraqi Parliamentary Committee of Integrity told Arab News that the estimated value of “looted” amounts during the past 12 years has been more than $200 billion.read more
US companies are eager to strengthen bilateral cooperation with Iraq in all industrial sectors, especially in oil and gas, the Iraqi Ministry of Oil said on Thursday after US Ambassador to Iraq Douglas Silliman met with Iraqi Oil Minister Jabbar Al-Luaibi. Al-Luaibi invited US companies to take part in tenders called by the Iraqi ministry and said Iraq was preparing more favorable work conditions for foreign companies investing and doing business in Iraq, Oil Price reported. The two US supermajors, ExxonMobil and Chevron, already have operations in parts of Iraq. Exxon signed an agreement in 2010 with Iraq’s South Oil Company to redevelop and rehabilitate the West Qurna I Oilfield in southern Iraq.read more
Mr Al Abadi has faced internal pressures to postpone the elections for at least six months but is adamant they will go ahead. Iraqi prime minister Haider Al Abadi has assured the nation that parliamentary and provincial elections will be held in Iraq in May as scheduled. Mr Al Abadi has faced internal pressures from the State of Law Coalition and the Union of Sunni forces in addition to Kurdish parties to postpone the elections for at least six months, Al Hayat, the pan-Arab newspaper reported. But in his weekly press conference, the prime minister dismissed any doubts, saying, “The cabinet today reiterated that provincial and parliamentary elections will be held on 12 May 2018.,” Mr Al Abadi said. “There is no reason for delaying the elections.”read more