Source: Japan Times
The internet and social media were once hailed for creating new opportunities to spread democracy and freedom. And Twitter, Facebook and other social media did indeed play a key role in popular uprisings in Iran in 2009, in the Arab world in 2011 and in Ukraine in 2013-2014. Back then, the tweet did at times seem mightier than the sword. 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.
In fact, these regimes have begun to wield social media for their own ends. We have all heard the allegations that Russia covertly used social media to influence electoral outcomes in Ukraine, France, Germany and, most famously, in the United States. Facebook has estimated that Russian content on its network, including posts and paid ads, reached 126 million Americans, around 40 percent of the nation’s population. We should recall earlier accusations by Russia of the West’s role in fomenting the “color revolutions” in Ukraine and Georgia. The internet and social media provide another battlefield, it seems, for the surreptitious manipulation of public opinion.
If even the most technologically advanced countries cannot protect the integrity of the electoral process, one can imagine the challenges facing countries with less know-how. In other words, the threat is global. In the absence of facts and data, the mere possibility of manipulation fuels conspiracy theories and undermines faith in democracy and elections at a time when public trust is already low. READ MORE…
Oil prices surged to 2-1/2-year highs and U.S. crude touched $60 a barrel in light trading volume on Tuesday, boosted by news of an explosion on a Libyan crude pipeline as well as voluntary OPEC-led supply cuts. Iraq’s oil minister said on Monday there would be a balance between supply and demand by the first quarter, leading to a boost in prices. Global oil inventories have decreased to an acceptable level, he added.read more
Iraqi Oil Minister Jabar al-Luaibi said on Monday (December 25, 2017) he was optimistic there would be a balance between supply and demand by the first quarter of 2018, leading to a boost in oil prices. The new contact will allow Zhenhua to receive a $3.5 fee for each barrel of crude produced from the oilfield, Ameedi said, and will serve as a model for all upcoming contracts with international companies. Jalal also said his company has plans to upgrade production from the Neft Khana oilfield near the Iranian border to 8,000 barrels per day from the current 2,000.read more
Iraqi Vice President Nouri al-Maliki told Rudaw during an interview in Baghdad on Thursday that the federal government has to help the Kurdistan Region to solve the problems it is facing including the ongoing financial crisis before “it is too late.” He called the events in Khurmatu since October 16 “ethnic cleansing” and one that they are following with great concern. Maliki served as Prime Minister of Iraq for two terms from 2006-2014. Under his tenure the central government cut the Kurdish share of budget in early-2014 over the KRG’s plans to export oil independent of Baghdad. He deployed the Iraqi security forces to the borders of the Kurdistan Region at least twice when he was the PM, and became the first senior Iraqi politician to threaten Kurdistan with the use of force against the Iraqi-opposed Kurdish vote on independence. In a wide-ranging interview, he told Rudaw presenter Ranj Sangawi that he wants both Iraq and the Kurdistan Region to get over what happened in the past, including the disagreement over the Kurdish vote.read more
Analysts have blamed Egypt’s autocracy for a recent attack that killed hundreds. But that’s not what’s motivating the violence. A few weeks ago, terrorists laid siege to a mosque in the small town of Bir al-Abd that lies just off the east-west road spanning the northern Sinai Peninsula. They killed 305 people and wounded many others. The photos from the scene were macabre—the stuff of Baghdad or Karachi, not Egypt. Until the attack on the al-Rawdah Mosque on November 24, the deadliest terror incident in Egypt occurred in 1997, when a group called al-Gamaa al-Islamiyya killed 57 people—most of them Japanese and British tourists—at the Temple of Hatshepsut near Luxor. The recent bloodletting in the Sinai is believed to be the work of Wilayat Sina, the Sinai branch of the self-styled Islamic State, though no one has claimed responsibility.read more
Capital failure. Blame poor leaders, distracted neighbours and a stalled peace process. Even by the standards of the peace process, this may be a new low. President Donald Trump’s advisers have spent the past year shuttling between Israelis and Palestinians. The administration is close to unveiling a peace plan, but its work has already lapsed into what the White House calls a “cooling-off period”. When Mike Pence, America’s vice-president, visits the Middle East in January, he is unlikely to be received by a Palestinian leader. The latest round of talks may be over before it begins.read more